Posted by: CJ | September 20, 2010

Random Thoughts

Here are some random links of things I’ve found.

First up is Bryan Caplan on double-standards. I normally think Caplan is a crack-pot weirdo. I mean, he spent a week once trying to justify that females had just as much freedom in the late 19th century as today, and also wishes he had a clone of himself to raise as his own son. But that craziness makes him occasionally willing and able to say things that cut to the chase. This post is one of those times. He says that if we’re going to have discussions about when it’s morally permissible for us to hurt them, for whatever reasons related to security or retribution, then we also must have the discussion of when it’s morally permissible for them to hurt us. If we don’t have both discussions, then we’re enforcing an unreasonable double-standard.

Arnold Kling has typically trenchant, if annoyingly curmudgeonly, things to say about the “Era of Expert Failure”. I don’t know what in that essay I agree or disagree with yet, but I think it’s an important topic to think about. He favors making competing governments that citizens could subscribe to, more or less. But keeping some things, like courts and defense, nationally run by everyone. I’m unclear if his idea is in any way practical, but it is interesting.

Someone offering a very impressive service on photo restoration.

Finally, there was an interesting exchange over the weekend over a law professor complaining that he doesn’t make enough money to have his tax rates raised. Here’s is original complaint. This gist of it is he and his wife–a medical doctor–live in Chicago and make somewhere between $300k and $400k a year, and pay around $100k in taxes a year. They feel that doesn’t really leave them enough money for discretionary spending since they already have a mortgage, two nice cars, at least one child going to private schools, a nanny for their baby, a several-times-a-month maid, and other more mundane amenities they must pay for. They view all that as bottom line necessity for their social standing, so they can’t really imagine giving any of that up, and so they don’t believe they have that much money.

Suffice it to say lots of people piled on the guy for being an entitled  or self-pitying dumb-ass. Tyler Cowen, while not defending the law professor, did say the law prof’s public ranting made him wonder at what point the rich and super-rich were allowed to complain about their tax burden. An interesting question, but not the most interesting comment I read. Brad DeLong had the most interesting comment I read. He pointed out the secret shame of people like this law professor is that the chasm between rich and super-rich has grown in the past 30 years, to the point where the merely rich–ever looking upward–feel much less rich than they feel is right.

Even more importantly, DeLong quoted Milton Friedman’s classic maxim: “To spend is to tax.” By that, Friedman just meant the obvious that if the government spends money that it’ll have to come from somewhere. And that somewhere is taxpayers. The rich and super-rich were the people in the best position to stop the craziness of the Iraq War, to stop or make less bad the worst excesses of the Bush administration, and to do something about bad practices in the banking sector. Instead, near as I can tell, they focused on getting laws passed that would make them pay less taxes or help make money via regulatory arbitrage. (Which is a fancy way of saying they wanted the government to pass laws that would implicitly make someone-maybe customers, maybe the government-hand them more money.) Part of me really wants to say that higher tax rates of those very same rich is a burden they have to shoulder now, and that we have to find a way to make them shoulder. If they didn’t want to, they should have done something to make it so the government was going to spend less money instead of just collect less revenue.



  1. Thank you for linking me 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: