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Stronger voting rights for those who pay higher taxes

An MIT- and Harvard-trained venture capitalist has proposed a system in which the votes are proportional to the wealth, more precisely to the total income taxes you paid last time:

Tom Perkins' big idea: The rich should get more votes
By the way, a month ago, this pundit compared the war on rich that is taking place in the U.S. to the Nazi Germany's treatment of the Jews.

I've been thinking about similar types of "weighting" for 25 years but when I ceased to be a teenager, my excitement about them went down, a little bit.

Well, I've been also thinking about stronger votes for voters with a higher education, but this is a particularly problematic twist because not all schools are created equal. Education (and especially IQ) is hard to measure; it is too controversial.

I was discouraged by the apparent lack of support for the weighting but the main reason behind my decreasing excitement about these proposals was the observation (one that was probably surprising to me – but I have gotten used to it) that rich and formally educated people may do and believe some very stupid things – sometimes it looks like they are more brainwashed, more gullible, and so on.

As Richard Lindzen sometimes says in the context of the global warming gullibility, ordinary people have sense but academics don't. Sometimes it seems that the most stupid, atrocious concepts arise in the heads of the most educated and wealthiest people (like the Hollywood "celebrities"). It may be ironic but there's surely some anecdotal evidence that this is the case.

So let me return to the wealth-dependence of the strength of votes. It's a more defensible proposal, I think.

And yes, personal wealth by itself isn't necessarily something that the society has to reward. It's really the amount of money that the individual pays to the state. And it's really the total income tax that is easiest to be measured.

Perkins proposes a direct proportionality. It could be a little bit extreme and the new system could create some discontinuity in the results. However, even opponents of the idea should be able to see that Perkins has a point. The government is doing services to the citizens and those who pay more taxes should "own" and "influence" a greater fraction of the government much like stockholders with many stocks.

But one could start with the rule that a person has \(N\) votes where \(N\) is equal to \[

N = {\rm Floor}[\log_{10}(T)]

\] where \(T\) is the income tax paid according to the latest annual federal tax form or $1,000, whatever is bigger. So non-payers and tiny payers would have 3 votes, those who pay at least $10,000 and more would have 4 votes, those who pay $100,000 or more would have 5 votes, and so on.

The logarithm above is an extremely slowly increasing function and the dependence on the income could be accelerated if people liked it.

One question is whether the U.S. Congress or another parliament could ever approve such a proposal.

Another question is what the impact of the modified rules would be on the political landscape. Generally, I think that it would suppress parties that make living out of a fashionable kind of theft known as redistribution – which is a highly desirable outcome. But I am not quite sure. What do you think?

U.K. Green Party's plan for absolute power

BBC (Via Marc Morano) brought us an incredibly sounding story.

A particular extremist party in the United Kingdom, the Green Party of England and Wales (which boasts 1 deputy among 573 in the House of Commons), is planning an imminent coup in the monarchy similar to Hitler's or the communists' acts that gave them absolute power. The chairwoman calls for the dismissal of every single minister, deputy, or government agency's boss who realizes that climate alarmism is a pile of crap, so that extremist alarmist whackos who should normally be kept in psychiatric asylums may be substituted everywhere.

Fraudulent alarmist Wikipedia editor William Connolley is an apparatchik in this extremist political party.

Many of us have warned that the basic character of the climate alarmists' reasoning is structurally analogous to the Nazis' and Stalinists' reasoning but this is one of the most explicit, most political piece of evidence that they really want to get far. I am offended, angry, slightly worried, but also confident that this is just a silly publicity stunt. Natalie Bennett is an unlikable scold who may share the ambitions with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin but she is lacking their charisma.

Some more sensible politicians in the U.K. pointed out that Bennett's is a quasi-fascist policy.

The BBC article also mentions some outrageous statements by David Cameron. Guys like this one really fill me with fear because despite his bizarre identification as a conservative, he might actually be able to start to fire ministers or deputies etc. because of this utter insanity. He's a brainwashed green lunatic analogous to Natalie Bennett herself.

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reader BobSykes said...

My choice for the electorate would males between 35 and 65 whose income consists of wages or salaries from profit making corporations.

These criteria would eliminate women, everyone on welfare or pensions, people whose income comes from investments and anyone working for a college/university, NGO, charity or non profit.

The people eliminated are essentially parasitic on the productive classes.

reader imho said...

A major feature of democratic systems is their ability to create stake-holders in the system. People are less likely to hate the government and more likely to hate the "other" party. Societal structure is more stable, because the rank-and-file always feel that they personally have the ability to change things in the next few years. The proles get to vote for people that "look like them" and "believe what they believe". Therefore they always feel that there is someone in their government representing their voice and interests. And truth be told, it's those on the lower end of income and education that tend to be the most volatile. Instability is an unpleasant business. Voting is one of the dampening terms in the driven harmonic oscillator that is capitalism.

It seems to me that redistributed voting is a fools errand posited by those who don't understand the intricacies of the system. Furthermore, it's not like individual power is measured in units of votes allowed per person. One could probably reasonably argue that voting is mostly uncorrelated to policy anyway

reader Werdna said...

Looking back on it, Andrew Jackson and the movement to create universal manhood sufferage was probably a huge mistake.

When the American Republic was first founded, in most places only land owners could vote. There seemed to be some understanding that votes should have to do with being stakeholders, not just breathing.

But since they also denied votes to women, and blacks, people irrationally conclude that the restriction to land owners was also this terrible sexist racist thing. But it's not. Do people who own no stock in a company having any right to dictate the actions it takes?

Okay bad example, since we are dealing with people who believe the answer is obviously yes, the government should do all kinds of things exactly like that.

Another bad mistake was the lower of the voting age. The argument at the time was that we were drafting young men to go off to war who were too young to vote and thus influence the decision whether or not they could be drafted or that there would be a war. Well, okay, except A) We don't have a draft anymore and B) That's a problem that can be solved 2 ways, assuming you still have a draft, and nobody even stopped to consider raising the draft age at the time. And wouldn't that have been the more moral thing to do? Not force young people to go off and die? No, let's give them the vote and pat ourselves on the back about how righteous we are. But they still have to be forced to go off and die.

reader Honza said...

The major problem is elsewhere. There is a conflict of interest for people who are being paid by government and vote for government. The system would have to be set so, that tax on money being earned from government is excluded. So if you are government employee, you still do not get any votes. If you are billionaire who only earns money from government contracts, you do not get to vote. It would have to give more votes to people who do not vote themselves tax money. In a sense, if you want to vote, you have to be willing to earn your money, rather than sending government goons to extort it form your fellow citizens.

reader Mikael said...

With an inheritance tax rate of 100% maybe this proposal would become defensible.

reader BMWA1 said...

OT, but US looked quite strong against SK. I wonder if it will be US vs. RU again in the hockey final?

reader Werdna said...

Few things infuriate me more than this sort of hardcore communist bullshit. Advocating for outright theft is criminal behavior.

reader Honza said...

It is nicely put here by Milton Friedman

reader Mikael said...

Sometimes a little reading could help. I am not arguing for an inheritance tax rate of 100%. But otherwise if you make the vote dependent on the income tax for example these stronger votes would quasi become inheritable.

reader Gordon said...

This is a Swiftian "Modest Proposal" I assume.
Do you want just to eliminate them from voting or are you talking about a final solution? Also, you forgot the elderly in the second paragraph.

reader Gene Day said...

From Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the wisest of our Founding Fathers:

"Private Property therefore is a Creature of Society, and is subject to the Calls of that Society, whenever its Necessities shall require it, even to its last Farthing; its Contributions therefore to the public Exigencies are not to be considered as conferring a Benefit on the Publick, entitling the Contributors to the Distinctions of Honour and Power, but as the Return of an Obligation previously received, or the Payment of a just Debt.”

Yes, this was written by Franklin. Try googling it.

He very clearly said that taxes, even at the 100% level, are simply the return of a previously received obligation or the payment of a just debt and they do not entitle the payer to anything. Franklin would not exactly agree with Tom Perkins, would he?

reader Taxman said...

I believe the German system prior to WW1 had seats split in three so that the wealthiest 1% elected 33% of MPs, the next 30% elected 33% and the 69% poorest elected 33%. This is effectively similar to this idea.

Similarly most older democracies started with a property qualification. The vote was restricted to those "with a stake in the system". However once qualified your vote was equal. Interestingly woman were electors in such a system. However the properties laws made women's property belong to the man. Consequently a daughter or wife lost the vote.

I recall reading a book at university recommending a two house system. Apols for not remembering the name. One house only could raise taxes but both houses could spend it. The first house would be elected by net contributors (ie tax paid - welfare received>0). The second house by all adults. This suggestion related to the problem of a majority voting to transfer money to themselves from the minority. I'm sure we all know the famous quote.

I think there's some merit in the latter idea: redistribution is controlled by contributors, ordinary laws are controlled by all citizens.

reader Graham Green said...

Corporations are full of smart people. Let companies have block votes according to their tax contributions.

reader Werdna said...

I don't regard the heritability of votes as a defect of the proposal. And it is distinctly un-obvious to me how it is supposed to be.

reader John Archer said...

"Private Property therefore is a Creature of Society, and is subject to the Calls of that Society..."

I kind of go along with the first part, if it's translated properly, namely: Private property is a result of deals between men. Among other things these deals, generally by default, are that they kill each other for it unless they can come to arrangements that better suit them. But I have to say the private-property deal does seem to be quite a popular alternative and it's one I favour.

As for the second part: in general, no. It's only subject to the deal, whatever it was, and that may well not include the "Calls of Society", or at least some of them. I think it best if people work out the terms themselves beforehand and not have them decided for them post hoc by philosophers.

I do like Benjamin Franklin but I think he went off on one there.

reader Dan Park said...

If I would be so charitable as to grant that Mr Perkins is of average intelligence, I can only assume his remarks were intended as an ambit claim to draw the debate back towards compromise. I'd hate to think he was a genuine advocate for anarcho-capitalism, which is rightly dismissed by traditional conservatives as hopeless idealism. The idea of the state as a corporate entity crucially deprives it of claims to impartiality. Therefore the state (such as it is) cannot act as a guarantor for the protection of individuals and their private property. The importance of the state as a disinterested third party was clearly elucidated some 400 years ago by Thomas Hobbes in his seminal work, Leviathan. Hobbes's theory makes testable predictions about the history of violence and it enjoys good empirical support.
In this history of humanity, what good ever came from an anarcho-capitalist society? Nothing. It's rubbish.

reader efalken said...

As you note, lots of really rich people are very fond of bizarre ideologies. I think the key is, like classic Greece, you have voting in the hands of a large body of people with some means, which they called citizens. The Roman Republic was the same way. Giving votes to everyone regardless of means, merit, or qualification, seems a recipe for disaster, why the US founders were so wary of democracy.

Alas, everything now is about democracy, not liberty.

reader mrbuffalo said...

Decoupling of production and consumption has caused an imbalance in capital flow. With complete decoupling, money is no longer needed. Robots are coming to the US.

reader Scott Scarborough said...

Only problem with raising the draft age would be when people get a little older they stop believing all the bull shit and won't charge the heavily fortified hill just because their commanding officer says so.

reader Scott Scarborough said...

The other proposal that I have heard was to only allow those who pay income tax to vote... still one vote per person. That would be simpler. Our host is very smart and sees no problem with an equation governing the number of votes. But practically speaking, people have a hard enough time simply voting and counting votes. We already check for eligibility so changing the rules of eligibility should not be too difficult.

reader Scott Scarborough said...

And no,

Private property is not a definition of Society. I own something because I made it or traded something I made for it. That is hard for someone who is incapable of making anything to understand for sure. Since they are too stupid to make anything they are also too stupid to understand the impropriety of forcibly taking something from someone. They have to live their life that way since they would starve to death otherwise... there too stupid to make anything. They need a politician to steal it for them.

reader Eugene S said...

I had not known of that quote by Franklin before, Gene. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

Redistribution is theft, but it is also both unavoidable and necessary. It is also morally right. I know, it sounds paradoxical: how can theft be morally right? Well, it's like the Roman god Janus, who had two faces, one looking east and the other west: the embodiment of a contradictio in adjecto. Life can be messy like that.

It is important to remember that people with lots of money do not create that money out of thin air, by virtue of their superior intellect or talent. The money comes through and from other people. People who carry out work orders, people who build machines doing useful work, and people who buy and consume products. A millionaire or billionaire can only become rich through other people, not on his or her own.

There is a tension between property rights -- letting people keep their money -- and the need to return some of that money to the community from which it came. If you don't let people keep their high incomes, motivation will suffer. Innovation will come to a halt. A general malaise will set in. That is why communism can never work.

If you don't compel the "rich" (a flexible term) to return some of their money to the community, many of the indigent, the sick, the elderly, the weak will die. They will also disappear as consumers, driving down demand and gross domestic product (GDP). Modern society discourages hoarding of money through low but steady inflation, which nudges people to spend their money and return it to circulation rather than see it lose value.

In addition, the state taxes people disproportionately according to their ability to pay and uses the money to finance social benefits, provide for the common defense, educate youngsters, and also pour some of it down the sinkholes called Waste, Fraud and Abuse. In the past, this redistributive function was achieved largely in one of two ways, charity and violence. There seems to be general agreement nowadays that violence -- slaying your neighbor to take his house, his daughters and his stuff -- is a bad idea and therefore rightly discouraged.

Is the welfare state an improvement over charity? I don't know. Charity does seem to be inextricably linked to organized religion, and as the latter wanes so does charity. The defenders of the welfare state point out that historically, charity has not generated enough redistribution from the wealthy to meet the most pressing needs of the poor, as illustrated most graphically in the Victorian novels of Charles Dickens.

The critics of the welfare state point out that it inherently tends to grow without limit and that it ends up suffocating private initiative and innovation, tending towards the same dismal outcome as communism. The modern state appears to teeter always on the edge, just short of toppling under its own weight. For how long can this continue? I don't know.

Once the sandpile model reaches its critical state there is no correlation between the system's response to a perturbation
and the details of a perturbation. Generally this means that dropping
another grain of sand onto the pile may cause nothing to happen, or it
may cause the entire pile to collapse in a massive slide.


reader Scott Scarborough said...


reader Pamador said...

i say let the rich buy their votes, more taxes for the's not as if people's votes count anyway

reader lukelea said...

re: ordinary people have sense but academics don't

I've come to the conclusion that conformism is a tremendous force in human life and, among academics and the highly educated generally conformism means conformity of opinion. We (I mean they) want to be accepted by our peers just about more than anything else. These same issues of opinion are largely irrelevant to ordinary people's lives so they are able to take a much more dispassionate approach.

For instance my twin brother has two children. One, the brain, became a cosmologist. The other, the airhead -- her parents actually called her that -- became a cosmetologist. Besides making more money the cosmetologist also takes a much more commonsense view on issues of political correctness -- which didn't stop her from marrying a (slightly) African American man however.

Her cosmological brother on the other hand has gone completely off the deep end. He's now a survivalist with a small arsenal of guns in his closet.

reader ECM said...

Judging by the USA, where some of the biggest proponents of redistribution *are* the wealthy, I think this ends in tears, if you are anti-redistribution.

That said, a scheme where people who disproportionately take from the public trough should, perhaps, have their votes diluted, which would seem to be a lot simpler to implement than giving the rich (or better educated, whatever that means) weightier votes, might be more defensibe--it might also actually motivate those people to get off the dole*.

Distinction without a difference? Perhaps, but that sure seems a lot more workable than the converse.

(And let's not kid ourselves: nothing like this is ever going to happen because anyone for it will be immediately pilloried and banished from public life forever--if we can't even get commonsense restrictions on redistribution in place, there's no way anyone that actually proposes something that could have a material affect on derailing the gravy train is going to be anything other than a pariah.)

*A guy can dream, right?

reader Gene Day said...

You need to consider the context, as always, John. Always remember that.
The state (Commonwealth) of

Pennsylvania was just being organized and there was a serious effort to establish a higher house of the state legislature comprised only of property owners, following an old English tradition. Franklin opposed this movement and this and this writing was written in support of the idea of one man, one vote. You should not think that Franklin did not respect private property.

I strongly recommend that you never take statements out of context and my doing so was intended to teach that lesson.

reader Werdna said...

I think you overestimate our ability to check for eligibility. Look at the strength of the pushback on voter id.

reader Werdna said...

Whether we should do that or not becomes a moot point when we don't have a draft anymore. However, notice that the rationale for giving 18 year olds the right to vote no longer exists. And yet we let them vote. And man do they ever vote badly.

reader Scott Scarborough said...

You are right. They are suppose to check for residence and registration. But if they can't ask for positive proof of even this it would be hard to ask for proof that you paid taxes.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Jonny, why do you think or write that he is a lunatic? More precisely, why don't you consider a hypothetical appraisal that you are just a piece of insane irrelevant stupid nothing compared to this guy?

Even the left-wing CNN had not a slightest problem to allow him present his proposal so you surely don't expect my right-wing blog to consider Tom Perkins politically incorrect enough to be censored, do you?

Lunatics are those in the "99%" and similar movements that want to return the society to the Stone Age, a stage of primitive communism.

reader Luboš Motl said...

A good point, Honzo.

I think that one should emphasize that such a decrease of the influence of the recipients of the government money doesn't mean that they stop getting everything, and so on. They only lose the ability to decide. The redistribution would be (mostly) decided by those who pay for the government activities but the resulting government would still probably run some welfare system, just probably a more effective one than today.

reader anna v said...

Democracy itself started in such an "elitist" way in Athens back in the sixth century. In Attica there were something like 400.000 metics (settled foreigners) ,migrants and slaves to 100.000 blue blooded Athenians. Of course only the blue blood could vote.

The question is, is it an improvement to classify people by taxes payed?

Of course in a sense the present system really is geared towards the rich who can "buy" votes by advertisements and tv time etc. This proposal would enhance their power.

reader Shannon said...

Why don't they organise a referendum? lol.

reader John Archer said...


OK. I bow to your superior knowledge.

Still, he did go off on one. :)

These are hard questions. I don't know the answers but I want a way of figuring them out. For me that would have to be from first principles, as it were. But how do you get to these? Again, I don't know but it seems fitting to start off with a very simple 'model' and work your way up from there, never forgetting our animal nature.

For example, imagine a passenger aircraft in flight the moment nuclear Armageddon breaks out with everyone on board being made aware of their plight and the plane being forced to crash land on a large deserted island. No help will ever come, so that's it from now on. Establish your deals.

You can vary the mix of passengers, and generally allow for all sorts of things: for example the decisions to be made about what should be done if a boatload of paki refugees subsequently arrives off the coast. (Ans: Sink it without trace, obviously, so 'national' defence needs organising pronto.) The only limit is your imagination.

That's how I like to think about these things but I've never been systematic, much less comprehensive, about it. Too much effort. In any event, boredom rapidly sets in. :)

reader Smoking Frog said...

It is important to remember that people with lots of money do not create that money out of thin air, by virtue of their superior intellect or talent. The money comes through and from other people.

The same is true of people with little money (and some of their helpers were people with lots of money). The only thing that needs remembering is that none of us got to where he is on his own.

reader strictly speaking... said...

So you're proposing something roughly similar to how the city of london is governed?

reader Noname said...

Hi Lubos, I really like your physics related posts. Is there an automatic way of filtering out all the rest? I mean all the global warming stuff and politics? If it doesn't exist it should be invented!

reader Luboš Motl said...

Good luck with your inventions.

I've got the same question several time and sometimes provided an extensive answer. None of the recommendations does exactly what you expect from your "invention".

I won't be spending another minute on that "invention" because I clearly consider such an invention worthless, as you surely understand.

Incidentally, most of my global warming posts *are* physics-related, and so are some political ones.

reader Physics Junkie said...

I didn't read the whole article because the idea to me is offensive. From what I did read I will say this, just like there is a separation between church and state in most western societies, I think there should be a separation between state and money. Lumo, you said it yourself that education doesn't always mean your smarter and that less educated people often have a form of common sense that the educated do not. I generally find that the educated have a better sense of the truth since they know more and I have thought about making voting along these lines myself, but I think it only holds in the most general sense and just barely holds water. As far as people with money, I think there is just as many ignorant, greedy assholes as there are with the poor. Therefore, I don't think more money, more voting power holds. The logical outcome, I think on such a system, is that power and money will move to those who have it more and those who don't have it get even less. This seems to be the natural order of humanity. You know the saying, absolute power corrupts absolutely. One of the founding ideas for the founding fathers of the American Revolution was a balance of power. I believe it is impossible to have a small government in the complex world we live in, but I think the idea of a balance of power can still work. One person, one vote with the absence of money changing the access to political influence in favor of power and money is the way to go here. Even if educated or rich people can better run things. There will always be things they can't understand since they are not poor. And having the voting power stilted to the few ignores the wishes and needs of those without even among the most benevolent. I come across as a bleeding heart liberal, but I am not. If you don't want to work, you should get squat, that's why I think a lot of the poor are greedy, but not all, and this minority should not be ignored. A level playing field of opportunity is what is needed, not a mass transfer of wealth from the poor to rich.

reader Curious George said...

What a neat proposal. Voting power should be concentrated in the best hands, e.g. Prince Charles, or Kim Jong-Un. Expect a very bright future.

reader Physics Junkie said...

Here is a proposal, one person, one vote but only if you are educated on how your system of government works and you know the current issues enough to engage in voting with an educated mind. Hard to implement, but keeps the mentally lazy and those who choose to be ignorant out.

reader Peter Denton said...

Weighting votes has already been tried in the US, but Baker v. Carr put an end to that.

We still have gerrymandering* but it is fairly controversial.

I highly doubt that any of the Warren court decisions on this sort of thing could be construed as leaving an opening for weighting votes and while the present court might be court to do it, I don't think they will.

*Note that while the beginning of gerrymandering is pronounced like the beginning of jelly, it was named for a politician, Gerry, whose name is pronounced like Gary.

reader Eugene S said...

Of tangential interest, since this post touches on economics and the welfare state, I would recommend a blog posting today by Todd Zywicky at Volokh Conspiracy:

Topics discussed include Hayek's Road to Serfdom, central planning, the welfare state (redistribution!), and Obamacare.

reader Eugene S said...

I upvoted your first comment but this one is a dud. In the U.S. (I am assuming you are writing from the U.S.), literacy tests have been dead since the passage of the Voting Rights Act fifty years ago. Due to their intimate association with racial discrimination, there is no prospect whatsoever of reintroducing them.

In any case college graduates go to the polls far more often than high-school dropouts, so a de facto literacy test is already in effect.

reader Gene Day said...

Many years ago I read the excellent 1938 biography of Franklin by Carl Van Doren and was struck by the above quote, which made Franklin look like a communist. He clearly was no such thing nor did he lose his sanity in his old age. He did not “-go off on one-”, John.

If you google the quotation and read Franklin’s entire letter you will understand why he wrote those words. He simply believed in democracy (one man, one vote) and he did not want Pennsylvania to establish a House of Lords. That was a very real danger at the time.

Imagine that, if Franklin were alive today and should meet Tom Perkins in the hallway, Franklin likely would say something like this:

“Tom, you and I are both very wealthy and we owe everything we have to the society and the laws that made this good fortune possible. We are thus indebted, down to our last penny, to our society and its laws. We do not deserve or need any special privileges or power because of our wealth. Indeed, the granting of such privileges to the wealthy has led historically to uncounted horrors including such things as the French and Russian Revolutions."

Note also that Franklin chose his words very carefully. He does not define “needs” (exigencies)
and in that one word lies the entirety of left-wing vs. right-wing politics. Franklin knew that. What does the government really “need” top do?

reader Gene Day said...

Sorry, lucretius, but comparing the reactionary Salisbury to our Founding Fathers is asinine and saying that 1867 England was the freest that any country has ever been is not at all provable; it is scarcely defensible, in fact.
I assure you that I know what is going on in Venezuela and I am very familiar with the evils of communism but our Founding Fathers got it right, by and large. The family of my maternal grandfather, William Calvin Baker, owned slaves in North Carolina so I am familiar with that evil as well.
Our most treasured ideals do, of course, stem from England including English Common Law, which the rest of the world would do well to adopt. I am not unappreciative of our english heritage.
It all comes down to whether you believe in democracy. Democracy’s failings are evident, as you will surely agree, but it is equally evident that everything else is worse.

reader Honza said...

Hi Junkie.

First, I find it funny, that you are not willing to read the whole article, yet expect the people to go through your rather lengthy comment.

Second – As I mentioned before, voting should not go by wealth. You should rather consider how the money were earned. Money earned on the free market – fine. Stolen money and tax money do not count. People sucking from the teats of government do not get to vote, however wealthy they get.

Third – you say: “I think there should be a separation between state and money.” Absolutely right. But right now state is taking and redistributing more than half of all the money earned. And there is no convenient way to stop politicians from using these money to buy the votes, and return to the state of separation of state and money. The above proposal could have a chance.

I do not quite like use of word “greed” in these discussions. Please consider “self-interest” instead. I also do not understand why rich people trying to keep their money are called greedy, yet unproductive people trying to get hold of somebody else’s money (often through government action) are not. It is very much emotionally charged word and does not contribute to clear and objective dialogue.

reader Werdna said...

I was assuming you'd need a constitutional amendment to begin with.

reader Tom said...

Given the calibre of this community I am somewhat stunned that the word “liberty” appears in none of the posts. The historical truth is that the US constitution was written to secure liberty not democracy, none of the leading luminaries in constitution’s creation had anything other than scorn for democracy (I think it true that the word “democracy” does not appear in the document). It’s also seems obvious that what the US founders warned about is now coming to pass, were politicians naked in their lust for power use the government purse to buy the votes securing that power. Here in the US we are clearly at a tipping point where 50% of the voters pay no income tax, while eagerly lining up for government handouts. With ever more power accumulating in the hands of soulless politicians waving a banner with “Democracy” on it, it’s hard to see how the West doesn’t suffer a Brazilianization: "a high-tech feudal anarchy, featuring an archipelago of privileged whites in an ocean of white, black and brown poverty.”

Liberty is the thing, it leads to a spontaneous order searching out equilibrium points, something no panel of government “experts” will ever find.

reader D.F.Linton said...

This idea occurs in mark twain's curious republic of gondour

reader Eugene S said...

right now state is taking and redistributing more than half of all the money earne

May I ask where you found that figure?

According to this list for 2011, in the U.S. the tax burden (as a percentage of GDP) was 26.9% and government spending 38.9%. In Czechia, the figures were 36.2% and 42.9%, respectively.

Even with the modern overgrown welfare state, more money gets redistributed the old-fashioned way (through consumption or investment) than through the government apparatus.

Incidentally, too little attention in my opinion is given to factors other than welfare and taxes that act as a damper on full employment. For example, crippling personal bankruptcy laws can turn a self-employed person who has taken risks but failed, into a virtual debt slave whose life and credit are ruined for more than a decade, sometimes his or her entire life. This vindictiveness pleases some people who sniff "serves 'em right" but is needlessly cruel as well as counter-productive in terms of the economy.

reader zlop said...

Sanctioning Evil,
Voting makes you an accomplice in Tyranny
"The Truth About Voting - YouTube"

"Alan Watt - Bread and Circuses"

reader Smoking Frog said...

Lunatics are those in the "99%" and similar movements that want to return the society to the Stone Age, a stage of primitive communism.

Right (except that I don't think they all want that), but "primitive communism" is Marxist BS - it probably never existed. Engels wrote that early man would not trade something that took him 12 hours to make for something that took the other person 1 hour to make. This is absurd.

Perhaps also relevant is that the American Indians bought, sold, and rented among themselves. The idea that they had no private property was a mistake by whites.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Smoking Frog, you must be right, trading etc. has been around for quite some time. But one still needs some intelligence for that. I guess that other animals are not generally trading, are they? Are there some exceptions? ;-)

Interestingly enough, we would learn a terminology stripped of the word "communism" for the societal system.

In Czech, we would call primitive communism "prvobytně pospolná společnost", the primordial society of communities, or something like that. Of course, the word "community" is related to "communist" in English but for communism, we use the same word, while "community" in the phrase is translated with a Slavic root, so it masks any links to communism.

reader Smoking Frog said...

Well, they have shown that chimps (or bonobos?) can learn to use money (tokens) to deal with other chimps, but no, in general I don't think animals know buying, selling, or renting. Why on earth would I, and who on earth do you bring it up? Oh - maybe because animals just rip each other off?

Thanks for the explanation of the Czech phrase, but it doesn't do me much good, since I can only write Czech, not read it. I write it by accident when I misplace my hands on the keyboard. :-)

reader lucretius said...

Well, I have just returned from your country (or more exactly, I am currently on the way, back, writing this at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris). In fact, I think, from exactly the same state you live in. I dare say, the question whether your “founding fathers” got it right seems still very much open to me.

Your country is still very young , you know, for example, a lot younger than most of the educational establishments I have attended, but it shows very worrying signs of premature ageing. As for your “founding fathers”, surely you cant deny that the second sentence of your Declaration of Independence is one of the most obviously false (and much imitated by all sorts of demagogues) statements that any intelligent group of men has ever authored?

Your post reminds of an instructive incident that happened to me once when I was an assistant professor at a large US university. My students found out that I had lived in Poland, Britain and Japan before coming to the US, so once when I was discussing something with a group of them, one of them asked: which of the countries you have lived in in is the best. I answered diplomatically “each of them has its better and worse aspects”. I know that they were not expecting this answer but I was surprised by the obvious shock it caused in all of them. What’s wrong with the United States, one of them asked. From this you can guess I was not teaching at Harvard ;-)

I few years later I voluntarily gave up my Green Card and moved to Japan. Unfortunately I don’t know what their reaction to that would have been, but I it seems to me that I was a kind of pioneer and now growing numbers are following my steps...

As for my comments about preferring Salisbury to all the “founding father” I can only paraphrase our host, who in the same thread wrote:

“you surely don't expect my right-wing blog to consider Tom Perkins politically incorrect enough to be censored, do you”.

Well, surely you can’t be so asinine to expect a thorough reactionary (i.e. your truly) to prefer what to me seems to be a bunch of confused and somewhat demagogic lightweights to one of the greatest conservative intellects in history? Or maybe you do, for that is certainly not what they teach in your schools. But, chacun a son gout, as they say here.

As for “democracy”, I think you Americans, generally misuse this term. Strictly speaking, it seems to me, there is only one real democracy in the world and it has just decided to impose quota on immigration to the horror of the other “democracies”. Is it the best system that has ever been. I will think about it the next time I visit my relatives there.

In any case, the word “democracy” is so vague (are constitutional monarchies democracies? What about democracies in which the same party always wins in “free” elections? Is Russia a “democracy”? Is Singapore, Hong Kong, or even Japan a “democracy”? How does the Emperor and the Japanese way of making key decisions fit into this? ) that I can't even agree with Winston Churchill (whom you are probably quoting) that everything else is worse. The answer, of course, depends, on what one counts as "everything else".

Actually, I don’t expect any answers to these questions. I like patriotic Americans. In fact, I am generally well diposed to patriotism. I am also very grateful to the US for the role it used to play in defending freedom. I do wish, however, there was someone else who could do the job more competently, but it the foreseeable future it looks like the position will unfortunately remain vacant.

I also completely sincerely believe in “American exceptionalism”, it’s just that I don’t think it’s such a great thing, and I hope you don't insist everyone else should also become equally "exceptional" (I recall that your president believes that they already are).

reader Physics Junkie said...

I wasn't talking about the ability to read and write necessarily, if you do great, but some how informing the voter, if need by lecture. That is why I said, "hard to implement". I do not take this idea all that seriously, and I hope your right the the people who choose to be ignorant about their government and issues don't vote as often.

reader Physics Junkie said...

Thanks for replying and not being a troll about it. I agree with you on a few things. One, I should have read the rest of the article. Two, the real people who "suck off the teat", and by that I hope you mean those that don't want to work should get nothing as I stated, and I believe a lot of this was true before the great recession. Since then, there have been millions of people who have lost their jobs, that are smart, well educated, have a strong work ethic that can't find one because those jobs just don't exist yet. Indeed many of them may never come back due to the shift in improved productivity through computers and robotics. Futurists have been talking about it for 40 years, but only now are economists thinking that this could be a structural change in the economy and we may have a class of smart people who want to work, but will never get employed. Talk about paradigm shift. What does society do if this is the case. So, people getting government aid I divide into these two categories. Should the category who want to work, but can't, be denied the vote, I don't think so. I believe this would be as immoral as being on the dole because you are lazy.
I do agree with you on the separation of state and money. There is at the very least a conflict of interest for the same body to give away money as well as tax it. But, it would take a Constitutional change to do this, and maybe it is time to try this.
As far as the word greed, that maybe a strong term. So let me clarify how I meant it in this context. The greed can be from both the well off and those who have very little. Greed to me is when you have and want more money and power at the expense of someone else. The attitude of "I got mine and not I want yours too." This would exist in both classes the well off who may want more tax breaks for their interest group when we have a sky high debt would be an example. The other class how falls into this category would be the people who want free money without working. And they do exist. I have come across them in my life.
Let's look at the entitlement programs that take up the vast majority of the entitlements. There are 3: Social Securtiy, Medicare and Medicaid. Who get's social security? The retired. Who gets Medicare? The retired who may need medicine. Who get Medicaid? The poor who can't afford medicine. It would be a pretty cold person who thinks these people are on the dole and don't want to work. I do agree, massive and simple reform is needed in these though. A good start would be simple means testing for Social Security and Medicare so those who don't need it, don't get it. As far as things like the food program, unemployment and such where those who are lazy really reside, they make a small percentage in total after the other 3, and yes I am for reform to get the lazy out of these programs as well, but this is a very difficult thing to do practically and there will always be people who need the help that slip through the crack and those who shouldn't who do.

reader Gene Day said...

It’s probably best not to use the word “democracy” because it is ill-defined and its meaning has changed so much over the centuries. It has come to mean a country with popularly-elected government and universal franchise but that was not its meaning at the time of the founders.
There existed a huge range of political opinions in 1776 and the fact that a constitution was agreed on at all is remarkable. The fact that a durable document resulted is a testament to the quality and character of the founders. We probably agree on that.

My namesake, Franklin (It’s my middle name), believed deeply in the concept of one-man, one-vote and even became estranged from his son, who didn’t. Franklin, in particular, cautioned about the danger of people learning that they could vote themselves money. Your concern thus has a basis in the warning from a extraordinarily wise man who played the most vital single role in our nation’s founding structure. You and Mitt Romney are in agreement but you are wrong or, at least, you exaggerate the danger.

The thing you both overlook is the fact that people almost never vote their own personal interest. Political opinions are like religion; they are held for emotional reasons stemming mostly from our tribal heritage, like everything else. The risk is real, of course, but it is only one of the flaws of “democracy”.

Of course, everything the government does reduces someone’s liberty but, surely, there also are benefits from many government actions. The political left and the political right will forever disagree on where the limits of government ought to be but that is the nature of politics. If you don’t like it you are free to leave at any time.

reader Gene Day said...

For reference, here is thaty second sentence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Superficially, it is absurd, having been written by a slave owner, but it does express but a worthy ideal, does it not?

I agree with much that you have said but I am actually optimistic about the future of my country and its role in the world. Americans are much the same as everyone else and our exceptionalism is merely the result of the accidental confluence of favorable geography and deep European traditions. We are very lucky.
It’s not important but I am an Eisenhower Republican. If that makes me obsolete then so be it.

reader Tom said...


Thanks for your thoughts. Your Franklin quote in your earlier post was a definite surprise to me, I would never have guessed him as the author.

Your third paragraph goes to the heart of the matter: I think modern politics is religion. Consider the environmental bird brains who one day shut down the Imperial Valley and put tens of thousands of people out of work for a 1” bait fish, and the next argue in court to allow the windmills on Altamont Pass to chop up another few thousand eagles and falcons. You would think their brains would explode. This headline from RCS today, “1 in 4 Americans Don't Know Earth Orbits Sun”, points to my fears (I’m not sure I agree with Mitt Romney on anything).

I would be very happy to go back to what the founders set up with their layered notions of representation. The popular election of Andrew Jackson was clearly a turning point, and the 17th Amendment to the Constitution has been an unmitigated disaster (think of the endless line of buffoons parading in the Senate that the popular vote has coughed up).

PS. I looked into it, but don’t have the bucks to buy citizenship in New Zealand. Thinking about Chile, however.

reader lucretius said...

Gene, I wasn’t even planing to mention slavery (which Salisbury considered an abomination while hoping for the South to win the civil war for political reasons) since I thought that would be too easy and a somewhat unfair way to score points. But now that we are on this topic, let me make a few remarks about American history that I have not seen often mentioned either by “liberals” or “conservatives”.

Every American child believes that the so called American revolution was a rightful response to the “tyranny” of a British King who imposed on them unjust taxes. Yet only just over a decade earlier the colonist where singing hymns of loyalty exactly the same British King who was at the time spending a fortune to defend their interests against the French during the Seven Year’s War (which the American’s call the French and Indian War). Was it not basic justice that some of the cost should have been born by the people who most benefited from that costly victory? Is there not a case for seeing the American Revolution as just another example of the debtor finding a clever way of avoiding paying his debts?

As you yourself pointed out, the rhetoric about “all men being created equal” was not intended to apply to non-white men, over 40 years after the British Parliament abolished it throughout the Empire. It obviously did not convince the American Indians who, in overwhelming numbers chose to fight on the British side. Were they wrong about that?

It did not convince the Canadians either. The Canadians beat off an attempted US invasion during the War of Independence and then did the same thing again in 1812. Thus Canada has no “founding fathers” at all. As the result, as we know it has never enjoyed the benefits of a Constitution and remains a tyrannical socialist backwater… Or wait, I just remembered, take a look at this:

I can see Canada. Where is the Land of the Free?

As for real opinion of the “founding fathers”: I do think some of them, particularly Franklin and John Adams, would have been quite well known even if the US had not become independent. But on the whole, their personal role has been greatly exaggerated. Or, to put it in another way, had they helped to shape the independence of Venezuela, Venezuela would probably be pretty much like it is today. And had other men played the role that they did, the result would not have been very different as the ideas that they based themselves on, due to Locke and Montesquieu, were widely popular in the American colonies. The main reason why all these man look like giants to us is that we are used to having intelectual pygmies as our democratic politicians.

Actually, as I am sure you realise, Great Britain and its Navy (and thus also Lord Salisbury, its greatest builder) played as crucial a role in protecting the newly founded Republic as the founding fathers had in its creation. Salisbury strongly disliked the American democracy (he liked to contrast Lincoln’s suspension of civil liberties during the Civil War with the British Government consistent refusal to take similar measures even during the most dire moments of the Jacobite Rebellion) and hoped for a victory for the South in the civil war since he expected that otherwise the US will eventually overshadow Britain on the world scene (“It is very sad, but I am afraid that America is bound to forge ahead and nothing is going to restore equality between us”, he wrote in a letter in 1902) but he also told the Austrian Chancellor in 1896: “my countrymen have their own special peculiarities one of which is that they will never again fight against the Americans”.

Salisbury can perhaps be called “reactionary” in that he opposed universal suffrage but he was “my kind of reactionary”, and if you want to understand better what I mean I recommend you read this:

reader Gene Day said...

One day in the fall of 1987 I was walking along the beach on the coast of Monterey Bay, California when I saw the most amazing sight. Enormous numbers of brown pelicans were migrating southward in big clouds, resembling, in the distance, huge clouds of, literally, millions of insects. I could see five or six of these clouds of pelicans as they disappeared into the distance. At that one place and time I could see at least 50,000 of these magnificent birds but more likely 100,000 or more of them. Knowing that they are found along every coast of the Americas I marveled at the abundance of these birds and at the abundance of their food supply. Some birds were feeding and virtually every time a pelican dived into the sea it would emerge with a fish. Life was good if you were a pelican.

Shortly thereafter I learned that the brown pelican was on the Endangered Species List. I did look into it to find out how the science could be so botched up but I won’t go in to it here.

A couple of decades later the brown pelican was removed from the Endangered Species List and the greenies claimed credit for saving the bird.
The Endangered Species Act has cost many billions of dollars and I fail to see that it has done any good whatsoever. It should be repealed.

Do you really think the 178th Amendment has made very much difference? I don’t see it.

reader Honza said...

Gene, for one, I think my point would stand at 43% as well, but more importantly, you have found GDP (gross domestic product - the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a year, or other given period of time). But it makes more sense to me to consider net national product. On the top of it, there are many creative ways how to do this accounting, but it is far from being under 10 % where it should be.
Also, there is a lot of spending government forces you to make "on your own", and they never show in official budgets.

reader Honza said...

Mostly OK, but you are missing my main point. By people "sucking of the teat of government" I think also very rich people like for example Al Gore. Of all the money he earned he would have very little, if it were not for government. People manufacturing solar panels, windmills... they are extremely rich, but of gov. subsidies. They are not selling their stuff to customers, but rather to government who pays them with tax money. They would not get to vote. Congressman - the same thing, no vote based on that income payed by government.

reader Tom said...


I do think so. My reading of the founders is that their equal weighting of the states’ representation in the Senate was grounded in respect for the land as a place, a homeland for a people. All those references to Confederate soldiers responding to Yankee queries as to why they fight - “Cause you are here” - speak to the love of a land. When legislatures appointed Senators they surely chose them aiming for representation of their state as a homeland - think of John Calhoun’s love of South Carolina independent of the slave issue. Once Senators become agents on their own account they quickly forgot where they came from and have only worked at bringing home the bacon for votes. For someone good in archives I suspect it straightforward to mark out the erosion of federalism - the principal damage - beginning in 1913 with the 17th Amendment. I expect we agree that ever increasing concentration of power at the center can’t be a good thing.

reader Smoking Frog said...

surely you cant deny that the second sentence of your Declaration of
Independence is one of the most obviously false ... statements that any intelligent group of men
has ever authored?

I can deny it. It refers to equality in inalienable rights. That can't be "obviously false."

To be sure, you can find some things in its origins (e.g., Locke) to suggest that it also refers to equality in abilities, but I think a fair reading will show that this was not the main idea, and some things work against it; e.g. Hobbes said something along the lines that even the weakest and stupidest man was capable of depriving the strongest and brightest of his rights; so he was speaking of a rough, categorical equality of abilities.

reader Karel Strašný said...

I would make just one tiny modification

I think that there are still topics that parliaments decide that are not only about money, so I think that one vote for eveyone as a starting point would be better...

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