City of Brass

City of Brass


Tea party? I’m proud to pay my taxes

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

This year, I won’t be getting a refund – in fact I had to cut two sizable checks to the Department of Revenue and the Wisconsin Treasury. Yes, it was indeed painful.

Fundamentally, the idea of sending your money to faceless bureaucrats is one that provokes some resentment in even the most mild-mannered citizen. In fact, there’s a Tea Party rally going on right now in Capitol Square here in Madison full of people who are really angry about it, who think that taxes are a form of tyranny, who are holding signs evoking the Revolutionary War (“Don’t Tread on Me”, etc.) and who fervently believe that Barack Obama is a socialist/muslim/fascist/communist who will throw you in jail if you don’t buy health insurance.

That’s patriotism, in a way. These people believe that their liberty is being threatened, and they are making their voices heard in defense of what they believe.

However, my understanding of patriotism is that freedom isn’t free. I know that taxes are actually a fantastic deal; for my taxes, I get roads and schools, water and national defense, the Internet, NASA, and of course a social safety net that keeps millions of Americans out of poverty and in health. Here’s a fantastic, interactive graphic from the New York Times that makes it clear exactly where our federal tax dollars will be going in 2011.

In fact, most of the people at the Tax Day Tea Party rallies today would vigorously object if many of these things that are funded by their taxpayer dollar were to be cut. In fact there’s a huge disconnect between what people say should be cut from the budget and how much we actually spend on those things. And often, the people most up in arms about government handouts are the ones who benefit from federal spending the most.

Without getting into issues of race and class – even though these are at the very heart of the Tea Party anger – it’s simple to observe that most of that anger playing out today is due to a lack of information, and a deliberate strategy of mis-information. Tea Partyers are mad about lots of things that simply are not true, like being thrown in jail for not having health insurance, or about how the poor supposedly pay no taxes at all, or that the average American works four months of the year to pay off Uncle Sam.

In reality, tax rates today are the lowest in 60 years – 98% of Americans got tax cuts, directcly thanks to President Obama’s stimulus plan. And the majority of Americans think taxes are fair, putting the Tea Partiers way outside the mainstream.

Ultimately, it boils down to a question of responsibility. In a strange way, the Tea Partiers marching out on Capitol Square this afternoon view freedom and liberty, ironically, as an entitlement. I view it as something worth paying for. Who between us values it more?

I paid my taxes, and I’m proud.

Related: a new poll from the New York Times and CBS about Tea Partiers’ beliefs. (handy interactive graphic, too). Bottom line: lots of misinformation, leading to extreme views on pretty much everything. And Fox News is the primary engine for their anger and deception. And let’s not forget that the systematic and deliberate lies being fed to the Tea Partiers today has already had direct, and tragic, consequences.



  • http://twitter.com/TheModernBunny TheModernBunny

    Well said!

  • TheModernBunny

    Crud, I didn’t realize the URL would be in the body of the comment like that. Never commented here before. :P Sorry, didn’t mean to look like a spammer.

  • Patriot58

    Race and class aren’t even part of the equation. Have you even been paying attention?

  • kenneth

    Paying taxes really just boils down to being a grown-up. If you want or need something, you pay for it. You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. The tea-party folks and most “libertarians” these days seem to view the world as 15-year-old boys. They’re their own guys, and they don’t have to listen to anyone do do anything they don’t want to, but “Dad, I need a hundred bucks and the car.”
    These supposed hard guys who fancy themselves as their own autonomous islands don’t seem to mind government largesse when it spills into their troughs. I don’t see any of them sending back their social security check or refusing Medicare or the $50 million stretch of federally funded highway in their rural districts which maybe 100 people drive every day or the defense contract which may have more to do with makework than military need. No, then it’s “good” socialism! It’s only bad socialism if the recipient is poorer and darker than you. None of the so-called conservative anti-tax politicians has ever sucked it up and cut spending. Their solution is to spend like fools like the Democrats always have, but just put it on a credit card owned by the Chinese. Can anyone explain to me how that “keeps America free?”
    The tea party crowd also likes to throw around pejoratives interchangeably. Obama is a Marxist/socialist/Muslim/atheist/Nazi, they tell us. It’s clear most of them have never actually read a history book with any sort of perspective or critical thought to know the true meaning of any of these things. It is a dangerous movement because it’s basically degenerated into a brownshirt movement. Its member live in a paranoid world of conspiracy theory in which they, as the only true-blooded Americans, are being targeted for extermination by “them.” Their appeal, which is becoming less veiled ever day, is a call for “some patriot” to do “something” about it. Those of us who still read history books need only to look at Europe of the 1920s and 30s to see where that road leads.

  • http://frinds ataulmunim

    plz your email adriss

  • rt

    Great article. And, patriot58, it is about race and class in so many ways. My biggest complaint about the tea-partiers is that they didn’t seem to have so many problems with our country and the government until after Barack Obama was elected. These aren’t new issues, George the Younger was spending us into oblivion and the alternative healthcare plan the Republicans are now pushing somehow didn’t get mentioned until the Democrats passed their plan. The Republicans (and by extension , the tea-partiers; was Dick Armey ever a Democrat?) had the years 2001-2007 to put forth a plan, and never did. The tea-partiers want to “take back our country.” From whom, themselves I guess. Surveys have shown that the tea-party crowd is white, male, over 45 and predominantly conservative. That would put them at the age when Social Security and Medicare are or are about to be an important part of their lives, and I don’t see many of them willing to give those programs up, and I’m guessing they will like not being refused health insurance for pre-existing conditions as they age. And, patriot58, I am sick and tired of your crowd assuming that the only way to be a patriot is to be someone who agrees with you. So many Americans of many political beliefs fought and died so we can have the wonderful things we have in this country, and millions of people disagree totally with you. I’d really like to see the credentials you carry to justify your use of the term patriot, other than the probablilty that you watch Glenn Beck every night.

  • Patriot58

    Many of us have been against the growth of government for a long time. The problem is just that we’re too busy working and supporting our family to voice our anger. We’ve seen what our silence has cost this country, so now we finally have enough people that have actually read and understand the Constitution to speak out.
    And don’t start spouting that nonsense about returning SS checks or not driving on highways. When the government takes nearly 50% of your income for taxes, fees, and various other deductions, you have to try and get your money’s worth. And most of us (except for a few hard-core Libertarians) don’t think that there shouldn’t be any government. Government has its place. It just shouldn’t be redistributing peoples’ property to others. When we pay taxes for roads, sewers, and other essential services (police, fire, etc.) we’re paying for a service. Retirement income is best left to the individual to handle, and not run (and run badly in this case) by the government.
    And I am a patriot. I’ve served in the military for 10 years, I’ve read and actually understand the Constitution and the reason socialism is bad (and the underlying historical sgnificance), I pay my taxes, and I now voice my dissent when the government exceeds its authority.
    As far as collecting SS myself, I’ve planned my own finances to not count on it, as I don’t think it will be paying when I reach that age. If the government and enough true patriots actually started to phase out the government program and transition the public to private plans, I’d be the first in line to give up my small share of that pie. Would everyone who claims to be a Tea-Party person? Perhaps not, but I don[‘t speak for them, but only myself.
    The bottom line is that socialism as a philosophy is corrupt. Liberals/progressives/socialists want to control everyone else by stealing everyone’s property to give to others. Patriots believe that people can make their own choices, and if some one is in need the patriot will voluntarily offer charity, rather than force someone else to contribute their property to the cause.
    For all of the pro-choice talk that liberals often spout, that seems to only apply to abortions. When it comes to everything else, the liberal thinks they’re better than everyone else.

  • Steve Sandberg

    “Retirement income is best left to the individual to handle, and not run (and run badly in this case) by the government.”
    If you really had a picture of the squalor that many millions of elderly Americans died in before the coming of Social Security, I don’t think you would be so quick to make that remarkably glib statement.

  • Patriot58

    “Retirement income is best left to the individual to handle, and not run (and run badly in this case) by the government.”
    Nothing at all glib about that statement. The federal government is prohibited from running that kind of a program. There was nothing prohibiting states from getting into the retirement account business. And much of the poverty of depression that resulted in that “squalor” was a result of ill-conceived, over-reaching government policies in the first place. But that’s another discussion.
    For this discussion, I have two main issues. The first is that the enforced confiscation of someone’s property for distribution to someone else is in direct violation of the founding principles of our country, that of individual liberty and personal responsibility. The second (as if the first weren’t enough) is that the ponzi scheme that is SS is unsustainable. While we may be lucky enough to “get ours” (which I doubt) it isn’t financially sound, by design. If this were a private investment enterprise, it would be required to follow accounting rules of disclosure and maintain adequate resources. It would adjust its distribution based on its income and growth, as opposed to the political greed for power which currently drives entitlements. Because it operates behind the veil of government, it is now unmanageable. (at least until we finally admit that we’re broke.)

  • Alicia

    I saw poll results today on the news that said that something like 70-80 percent of the “Tea Party” is made up of older, well-off white men. That really needs no further comment. Do some of them have legitimate concerns? Yes. But, if I had those concerns, I wouldn’t be out in a crowd of people that included bigots, lunatics and people who make the John Birch Society look like a liberal organization.
    In fact, I wouldn’t associate myself with the ANSWER coalition or Code Pink either. People are judged by the company they keep, and those with legitimate fears in the Tea Party are being judged by the lunatics with whom they associate.

  • Patriot58

    Where are you seeing the bigots and lunatics? I haven’t seen that in any of the news coverage. I am hearing it on the progressive radio talk shows, but haven’t found any actual evidence to support that statement.

  • Alicia

    Come on Patriot58, various MSM news outlets have been covering rallies all year, and numerous people from MSM papers in Washington (including conservative ones) witnessed the racist taunting of Congressman John Lewis, the racist e-mails (oh, but those were jokes, so it doesn’t count), the signs and slogans comparing Obama to Hitler, the Republican politician in South Carolina who compared Michelle Obama to a monkey, the Birthers, Michelle Bachman, etc., etc. If you choose to associate yourself with these folks, that is your right, absolutely. Freedom of association does not entail that you will not be judged by the company you keep.
    I wouldn’t associate myself with the people who compared Bush to Hitler, in fact, I think those people are morons. You have every right to oppose the President’s policies, but when you associate yourself with people who (in my opinion) are raving and hysterical, you will drive moderates who might listen to your arguments away.

  • http://theiscollection.com/category/the-ethicist/ Teed Rockwell

    . “Why do you object to “the enforced confiscation of someone’s property for distribution to someone else”?” “Because I earned my money.” “Why do you say you earned your money?” “Because I acquired it through my own efforts.” “Entirely through your own efforts?” “Well, yeah, more or less.” Here the consensus that made the other answers so obvious begins to unravel. Some people believe that effort is all–that if a naked baby is parachuted into the Amazon rainforest with nothing but a Bowie knife, and that baby doesn’t eventually become as rich as Donald Trump, he has no one to blame but himself. If the Government paid for the Bowie knife, some might even object to that as creeping socialism.
    The rest of us acknowledge that we have all relied on some kind of family and government infrastructure that creates opportunities for us. With effort, those opportunities empower us to earn much of what we have, but not everything. We consequently have a right to most of what we own, but also an obligation to help maintain the infrastructure that made our successes possible. Healthcare and social security are part of that infrastructure, just like the police force and the fire department. The police force protect us from unfair violent attack, healthcare protects us from unfair medical afflictions. This is why both should be part of the infrastructure, so that America can come closer to being a land of justice and equal opportunity. Everyone recognizes that natural tragedies are unjust when they happen to several people at once. We all agreed that the Government should help those whose lives were ruined by the destruction of the World Trade Center and the San Francisco Earthquake. One person dying alone because they cannot pay for chemotherapy deserves no less.

  • Alicia

    BTW, Andrew Sullivan also has a good piece on the Tea Party on today’s Daily Dish:
    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/04/why-im-passing-on-tea.html
    A sample:
    “They (the Tea Party) have a real point. Over the last decade, it is surely evident that big government has come back with a vengeance. And one has to grasp that part of the tea-party anger is pent up from the Bush years. Most of the rational tea-partiers accept that the GOP has been as bad – if not worse – than the Democrats on spending, borrowing and the size and scope of government in recent years. They repressed this anger during the Bush years out of partisan loyalty. Now, they’re taking it all out on the newbie.”

  • Alicia

    And here is a link to a Salon piece about the demographic of the Tea Party:
    http://www.salon.com/news/the_numerologist/index.html?story=/news/the_numerologist/2010/04/15/who_are_the_tea_partiers
    Hardly a populist revolt.

  • Steve Sandberg

    “Nothing at all glib about that statement. The federal government is prohibited from running that kind of a program. There was nothing prohibiting states from getting into the retirement account business.”
    Well, first you said that retirement income is best left to the individual to handle. Now you have at least included the state governments. That’s progress. But let’s talk about that. Do you think, off the top of your head, that, say, Mississippi would be likely to do as good a job of managing its citizens’ state retirement accounts as, say, Connecticut?
    “For this discussion, I have two main issues. The first is that the enforced confiscation of someone’s property for distribution to someone else is in direct violation of the founding principles of our country, that of individual liberty and personal responsibility.”
    If that were the case, Congress would have no power to levy taxes. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution confers that power to Congress.
    “The second (as if the first weren’t enough) is that the ponzi scheme that is SS is unsustainable. While we may be lucky enough to “get ours” (which I doubt) it isn’t financially sound, by design. If this were a private investment enterprise, it would be required to follow accounting rules of disclosure and maintain adequate resources. It would adjust its distribution based on its income and growth, as opposed to the political greed for power which currently drives entitlements. Because it operates behind the veil of government, it is now unmanageable. (at least until we finally admit that we’re broke.)”
    Considering the record of private corruption in our financial industry, I would not burnish its integrity as an alternative to Social Security. (All those disclosure rules are government-mandated, incidentally.) And considering that in a bear market, even professionally-managed mutual funds are doing well when they just break even, how reliable is the stock market for putting groceries on the table every week?

  • Patriot58

    Wow… Where do I even start with all of this. I’ll start with Steve, since you’re first in my list.
    1) Mississippi vs Connecticut? I don’t understand your point. The founders allowed to states to make their own way, as an experiment. If a particular state tried and spectacularly succeeded in some particular arena, then the country could, either state by state, or through a Constitutional ammendment, adopt that across the country.
    I think that health care at the state level is just as bad an idea as at the federal level, but that is up to the voters of each state. I would much prefer to enter into a health-care coop (private, not govt) than a state-run program, because a private entity will be self-regulating. A government program has no real regulation, because as its recipients press for more, the elected government representatives will want their votes and just take more taxes and fees. Private plans afford the member to purchase only what they need. That’s the beauty of a free market.
    What about people that can’t afford health care? Lawyers and doctors offer pro bono services now. There isn’t anyone dying in America because of a lack of health care, and there wouldn’t be if the government got out of it. There are always going to be charitable organizations to serve the less fortunate, because there will always be charitable people that will donate their time and money to those endeavors. And charitable organizations do a far better job of serving the underpriviledged than any government agency has to date. Get the government out of that business, and provide incentives, via tax credits/deductions, for donations to those organizations..
    Your quote “If that were the case, Congress would have no power to levy taxes. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution confers that power to Congress” is a smoke screen. Of course the federal government has the right to levy taxes, and I don’t deny that. What they don’t have the right to do is to levy taxes and redistribute that money to other citizens. They can use it to employ cops and firefighters, military personnel, buy equipment, etc. for whatever services the government is allowed to provide. Health care isn’t one of those services. If you or anyone else wants the federal government to be authorized to do this, then there should be an ammendment to the Constitution, not legislative or judical fiat.
    And lastly, I’ll put my money into investment devices of my own choosing, which are making money, vs paying into the SS ponzi scheme. I note that you didn’t address the fact that it is insolvent and unsustainable.
    And yes, many of the accounting rules and regulations are the result of government exercising its fundamental responsibility, which is to protect the American citizen from those people or entities that would hurt or defraud the consumer.

  • Patriot58

    Teed, I have no problem acknowledging that government is necessary to provide an environment and a basic infrastructure that facilitates commerce between individuals. No man is an island (I think I read that somewhere…) But services provided should be paid for by those who use it, such as roads through either tolls or fuel taxes, military through some general form of taxes (sales, income, whatever), etc.
    There is no such thing as an unfair medical affliction or disaster. Fairness assumes an action taken by a sentinent being against another that is unfounded or unjustified. Medical afflictions and natural disasters simply exist. In some cases they can be avoided, and in others they can’t. We have no right to health care, just as we have no right to food, water, or shelter. Such a right would assume that others have no ownership of their own labor or product. We have only a right to exist and do as we wish, so long as we don’t interfere with the right of others to do the same. We have the right to seek the services or products of others, and they have the right to set the terms by which they will provide those products or services.
    I can see that we will probably never agree, because I believe in the concept of private property, and you don’t. You believe that, at least at some level, I have an obligation to provide my property for the use of others, regardless whether I agree with that use or not. And that is the antithesis of the freedom our country was founded upon.

  • Patriot58

    Alicia, I won’t argue for or against the Tea Party people. The ones I have met don’t come close to matching the writing you referenced, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. As for Republicans vs Democrats, I have no preference. While Obama is more socialistic than George Bush, they have both deprived Americans of various liberties and freedoms, and violated the Constitution along the way. While GWB’s financial troubles, handed down to BHO, have certainly been a problem, BHO has decided that the best way to get out of debt is to incur more debt. That doesn’t pass anyone’s common sense test.
    I too see it as disingenuous that some now “fiscally conservative” Republicans are the ones guilty for the tax and spend mentality that has plagued our nation for decades. The Democrats don’t have a monopoly in that area. But neither of them are the problem.
    The problem is us. You, me, and everyone else who may have decided that we wanted to have government provide more and more to us with other people’s money (SS, Medicare, Medicaid, etc). I was certainly guilty of this, before I learned just what a trap that is. And despite my discussions on this board, in my heart I know we are all doomed in the end. Our republic has passed the point where we can recover financially. We, as a nation, are incapable of producing enough wealth to pay back our existing debts, at least with the existing bloated government. It is only a matter of time before we financially devolve into another 3rd world country, where we suffer high inflation, and worthless money. And when that happens, we’ll descend into the chaos. It won’t be pretty.
    But we’ll start the cycle over again. Because no matter how well crafted is the next constitution, once the electorate realizes they can vote themselves favors from the government, the debt-fest will begin anew.

  • Steve Sandberg

    Wow… Where do I even start with all of this. I’ll start with Steve, since you’re first in my list.
    “1) Mississippi vs Connecticut? I don’t understand your point. The founders allowed to states to make their own way, as an experiment. If a particular state tried and spectacularly succeeded in some particular arena, then the country could, either state by state, or through a Constitutional ammendment, adopt that across the country.”
    Well, per capita, Mississippi is the poorest state in the Union, and Connecticut is the richest. So if the states are left to their own devices in managing retirement accounts, it is pretty apparent to me that the citizens of Mississippi would likely be disadvantaged, compared to the people who live in Connecticut. What managerial talent is going to go to a poor state when it would presumably get paid far better by a rich one? Yet if government management of retirement accounts is deemed to be a right that is equally available to all Americans, how could we condone the inequalities arising from the disparities in the resources available to the individual states? In regard to retirement security, wouldn’t the American citizenship of the residents of the Magnolia State be at a lower value than the citizenship of the residents of the Nutmeg State?
    “Your quote “If that were the case, Congress would have no power to levy taxes. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution confers that power to Congress” is a smoke screen. Of course the federal government has the right to levy taxes, and I don’t deny that. What they don’t have the right to do is to levy taxes and redistribute that money to other citizens.”
    The Constitution gives Congress, a body elected diversely from the separate states, the power to levy taxes. In particular it designates the House of Representatives – the house which is elected more frequently, and which therefore is presumably closer to the electorate – as the place where spending bills will originate. I conclude from this that the spirit of the country at any given time in our history can most reliably be understood by what the Congress does or doesn’t choose to spend money on. They know what will get them elected, and what will get them defeated. If the national spirit tilts toward rugged individualism, you don’t have Social Security. If the national spirit tilts toward a community concern, you do have Social Security. The original Social Security generation was far more expert in rugged individualism than you and I can ever possibly be. They grew up with it. And they had enough of it. That’s why they instituted Social Security. That’s where the American national spirit was at that time.
    “And lastly, I’ll put my money into investment devices of my own choosing, which are making money, vs paying into the SS ponzi scheme. I note that you didn’t address the fact that it is insolvent and unsustainable.”
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Social Security that would be cured by eliminating it altogether. Raise the income ceiling, raise the retirement age, raise the rate. But if you get rid of it, you instantly oblige every American to become expert in an arcane environment that is frequently vulnerable to wild bubbles, corruption, and secret manipulation. The stock market is great as a retirement supplement – assuming you had the disposable income to risk on it in the first place – but beyond that, how practical, really, is it? After the stock market crashed in 1929, it didn’t fully return to pre-crash levels until the 1950s. That’s a long time for a retiree to be clipping coupons, no matter how astute an investor he thought he was in ’29.

  • Alicia

    Thank you, Patriot58. I appreciate your thoughtful response, and hope you are wrong in your predictions about the future of our country. You said:
    “While GWB’s financial troubles, handed down to BHO, have certainly been a problem, BHO has decided that the best way to get out of debt is to incur more debt. That doesn’t pass anyone’s common sense test.”
    Adding more debt is certainly counter to common sense, but given the financial crisis we were facing (we, as in the US economy and the global economy) spending our way out of the recession may have been our only solution. I don’t know, I’m not an economist. I was just at a social event, and we were talking about what a bad bill the Economic Stimulus Package was.
    I think it was a bad bill, and I also think that it might have been the best option open at the time. And I think something had to be done.
    It doesn’t bother me if not everything Obama tries works, because I feel he is taking a constructive approach which is open to improvement.
    I would infinitely prefer it if the Republicans or the opposition were in their trying to improve his ideas, rather than just playing the partisan game. Anyway, thanks for responding.

  • Patriot58

    Steve, all people are created equal, but not all people will achieve equal results. And government should not try to ensure that they do. Government should simply remove barriers to that accomplishment, and get out of the way. It is pretty obvious that giving money to poor people won’t raise them out of their poverty. We’ve been doing that for 100 years, and we haven’t made a dent in the “war on poverty.” Education and training, a sense of purpose and personal responsibility offer the best hope for the poverty stricken. Our current government-provided entitlement system is the largest contributor to the perpetual poor.
    Alicia, I don’t agree that we had to “do something.” It was exactly this same “doing something” that turned the recession of 1929 into the great depression. While not all economists agree, there appears to be a large majority that have come around to that way of thinking now that we have the prism of history to review what happened.
    Sometimes action is required, and sometimes inaction is the best course.
    Finally, I read many of the Republican and conservative proposals that were put forward regarding the health care bill. BHO (and his minions in the congress) didn’t give them the time of day, so who was being partisan? BHO is hell-bent on shaping this country into the socialist utopia he believes will result from his programs. Since every other experiment in socialism has failed, I have no hope for this one. And if he succeeds, it is going to be a pretty miserable existance for anyone who actually has ambition or desire to do well for themselves.
    As Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with socialism is that pretty soon you run out of other people’s money.”

  • Steve Sandberg

    “Steve, all people are created equal, but not all people will achieve equal results. And government should not try to ensure that they do. Government should simply remove barriers to that accomplishment, and get out of the way. It is pretty obvious that giving money to poor people won’t raise them out of their poverty. We’ve been doing that for 100 years, and we haven’t made a dent in the “war on poverty.” Education and training, a sense of purpose and personal responsibility offer the best hope for the poverty stricken. Our current government-provided entitlement system is the largest contributor to the perpetual poor.”
    Well, okay, but if you apply that reasoning to the states, and make the saying, “All states are created equal, but not all states will achieve equal results,” you turn us, effectively, into 50 separate citizenships…. that is, separate, but unequal.

  • Patriot58

    Steve’s Quote >Well, okay, but if you apply that reasoning to the states, and make the saying, “All states are created equal, but not all states will achieve equal results,” you turn us, effectively, into 50 separate citizenships…. that is, separate, but unequal.

  • Steve Sandberg

    “The liberty envisioned by the founders allowed for everyone to achieve the level of success they were capable of attaining. A government’s attempt to “level the playing field” through wealth redistribution reduces that liberty.”
    Well, I would disagree that it reduces liberty for everyone. It does reduce liberty for people at the top of society. There’s no question about that. But it enhances liberty for people who are below the top. So which is more important, uncompromised freedom for a few, or compromised freedom for many more? This is a particularly pertinent question when you consider how people who have full liberty usually use it, when they are not restricted by government rules. They tend to prevent others from rising to their own level, if they can prevent it. Hence monopolies, cartels, anti-union actions, etc. People at the very top of our society, who are the freest Americans of all, do a great job of restricting the liberty of others, when they are left to their own devices.
    Let’s not kid ourselves. We say liberty, but we mean power. People who have a lot of power are reluctant to concede any of it to their competitors. That is just as true of private enterprise as it is of government.
    If you look around the world at other countries, there seems to be a correlation between democracy, redistributing wealth, and the presence of a large middle class. All the major democracies are middle class countries and active wealth-redistributors. That would make those countries (and by extension, middle classes generally) liberty-restrictors, by your definition of liberty. Then compare those countries to the non-democracies. In each of those ruthless countries, there is only a limited middle class. But there is also some tiny privileged element, right at the very top of society, who are enjoying just the sort of unlimited liberty you are talking about. They wouldn’t change a thing. They wouldn’t give up any freedom to the general needs of their society. Are they wrong? If so, how? And how then do we measure the full liberty of any given country?

  • Steve Sandberg

    This is a very interesting discussion. :-)

  • interpreter

    For once we agree. I too am proud to pay my taxes to the 4th Christian horseman to rule the earth. And to the tea-partiers I say, Jesus was the first communist.

  • Patriot58

    Steve, I agree. I appreciate the discussion I’ve had here. Most respondents have been thoughtful, and not resorted to partisanship or name calling. We may not change each other’s minds, but if we make each other think through our beliefs, then we will be better for it.
    When I say liberty, I don’t mean power, though you could be right in that definition also. To me liberty and freedom are synonymous, with both meaning the right of an individual to do whatever they would like, so long as it does not interfere with another’s right to the same. And if you have liberty, protected by government, then you have power as well. If you restrict the liberty of a few, you have restricted the liberty of all. Protecting the liberty of the individual is government’s highest calling.
    In your statement, “It does reduce liberty for people at the top of society. There’s no question about that. But it enhances liberty for people who are below the top” I believe you are confusing liberty and freedom, for equality of outcomes.
    I see much made of the “inequality of wealth” within our country. What does that mean? It seems that it is perceived that there is something wrong with people that earn millions of dollars, as if they are evil and their wealth was somehow ill-gotten. In some cases that may be true, but in most it is not. It is the responsibility of our law-enforcement system to catch those who would violate the freedom of others by fraud or abuse, as defined in various statutes created by congress. Those men and women who had the foresight and the skill to earn money, build companies, and employ millions of Americans should be celebrated rather than berated for their accomplishments.
    And of their excessive power in the halls of Congress? Why do lobbying organizations have so much pull in this country? It’s not because they or the companies who hire them are corrupt. It is because our Congress is corrupt, with the ability to transfer massive amounts of our money to whomever they like. If Congress hadn’t taken the power to redistribute tax payer money for purposes other than defending our liberty, we wouldn’t have that corruption problem today. And congress and the presidency wouldn’t need to be a full-time job.
    As for those other countries you mention, based on the charts and graphs I was able to find online for this response, America still has the largest “middle-class” component of any “free” country out there, though it appears to be in decline. And I would submit that that decline is a result of two things. 1) The elevation of the dollar-boundary between poor and middle-class, and 2) inappropriate protection of liberty and excessive redistribution, as opposed to not enough redistribution.
    As for measuring full liberty of any given country, it boils down to the freedom of self-determination. The balance of my freedoms to my restrictions. In researching an answer, i stumbled across this brief presentation. I’d be curious where you disagree with their premise. http://www.isil.org/resources/philosophy-of-liberty-english.swf (I’ll warn you that this seems to be promoting the ideal of libertarianism, but they make some good points.)
    In a broader cultural sense, we as a nation have a declining sense of personal responsibility, and to our detriment. The age for full adulthood grows older each year. At this rate, with an average lifespan approaching 75-80 years, the only people actually generating wealth in this country will be the 30-55 age group. That means that future generations may only be productive for 25 out of their 80 years. With more and more citizens dependent on government redistribution of tax-payer funds, we’ll soon reach the tipping point (if we haven’t already) where business can’t generate enough wealth to support the recipient class.
    When and where I grew up, I was expected to at least get a summer job at 16, learning the value of money. My family wasn’t poor, but they couldn’t afford to send me to college. I had the choice to attend college and work my way through, get an entry-level job, or join the military. I chose the military route, knowing that I wasn’t mature-enough yet to attend college anyway. 10 years of military service to my country taught me a lot, helped me grow up and mature, and allowed me to gain a lot of experience and appreciation for other cultures (Japan, Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, Kenya, Singapore, Philippines.)
    While there are exceptions, I see a lot of spoiled youth running around today. High school students that haven’t learned anything about the founding principles of our nation. College kids that don’t have a job, supported by mom and dad and a government loan, which they may or may not have to ever pay back. How are they to learn responsibility and become producers in our country, when the first 25 years of their lives have only taught them how to be a recipient? That first “real job” is quite a shock.

  • Patriot58

    Interpreter, the following assumes that your comment wasn’t made tongue-in-cheek. (It’s had to tell in the written word, since I don’t know you.)
    Jesus was the farthest thing from a communist that you could imagine. Have you actually read the Bible? It is full of teachings regarding self-discipline and personal responsibility. There are portions where it discusses how people should look out for each other, as opposed to expecting government to provide.
    I’m not a Christian, but I’ve read and studied the Bible over the years, because it provides important historical and cultural perspectives that are still pertinent to American culture. Especially to American culture, since the founders relied on Christian principles when discussing liberty and freedom.

  • Barb

    It is a plain and simple fact that we are taxed to the max…from every area that can be taxed…and they are always coming up with a new one…on the back of the middle class ….enough already..time for the tea parties…time for Joe Citizen to say enough….our elected leaders dont listen to Joe citizen…they plow forward with their not thought through agenda…they have made a mess of our industry…an America that made the best…greed is the name of the game and it has turned our country upside down….we have reps that dont represent the people ….and institutions that are disreputable…character and integrity are a thing of the past…we have a system out of control…the american public needs to get up and demand a system that represents all the people, fair and equal representation…tea parties stay strong…

  • Steve Sandberg

    “As for measuring full liberty of any given country, it boils down to the freedom of self-determination. The balance of my freedoms to my restrictions. In researching an answer, i stumbled across this brief presentation. I’d be curious where you disagree with their premise. http://www.isil.org/resources/philosophy-of-liberty-english.swf (I’ll warn you that this seems to be promoting the ideal of libertarianism, but they make some good points.)”
    I watched the presentation. It’s powerful for what it includes, maybe not so powerful for what it leaves out. Also, I couldn’t help noticing that the symbol which is used for private property – the circle, with the little solid circles ringed inside it – resembles a cross-section of the bullets in a revolver’s chamber! Sorry, just being neurotic. To be liberal is to be neurotic. :-)
    Anyway, I’d have more respect for libertarianism if it had ever developed a critique of the abuses of private enterprise to match its critique of the abuses of government. I’ve never seen one. Maybe such a thing exists, but if so, it is certainly not an aspect of the philosophy that has gotten much play. Instead, the average person gets the strong impression that for libertarians, it simply isn’t possible for capitalists to abuse society through abuses of capitalism. By their own definitions, such a thing cannot be.
    Everybody brings their own personal world to their political judgments of the way the outer world ought to work. Nobody does that more than libertarians. My personal observation of strongly political people is that Republicans and Democrats are about equal in intelligence, but libertarians are definitely more intelligent as a group. Their genius component is unusually high.
    But exceptional intelligence, as a way of looking at the world, has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are clear. The disadvantages aren’t so clear, but they really emerge if you consider the sorts of attitudes and behaviors that libertarians require of other people and institutions for their philosophy to work in any sort of real-world context. Most people aren’t geniuses. Most people aren’t that fanatically into hard work and self-reliance. They aren’t as emotionally independent as libertarians tend to be. (Fortunately, most people aren’t as brainwashable as libertarians are, either….. a hard-core libertarian is as brainwashed as you can be, outside barbed wire.)
    I agree with you that our society is showing a lot of signs of decline. But I can’t blame government for it. To me, the government is, at worst, a symptom, not a cause, and the basic causes cut across all political philosophies, all institutions private and public, and all levels of society. It would take a library full of books to analyze it. Maybe it’s as simple as noting that when your time of greatness is up, it’s up, across the board, private and public. Maybe we’ve had it too easy for too long. Some of us are too money-crazy, that I know…. There’s no other way to explain why the SyFy network runs professional wrestling. If that isn’t corrupt, nothing is, and the government has nothing to do with it. :-)

  • Rafaella

    When was society perfect? for years slavery was legal. Racism was legal and codified in the United States. Women couldn’t vote. Child labor was legal, only the rich were educated. People with mental illness were confined to back wards. Poverty was more widespread and people died or became disabled due to simple infections we can now treat. At least withinsurance, but I digress. We have problems and we have taxes, but those thing we always have had and always will. It never was and never will be a perfect world. We have made some decent gains. I don’t mind paying taxes to keep up roads, schools and libraries-whatever. I agree, the government can’t be blamed for everything or solve everything. Sometimes, we need to look elsewhere or in the mirror!

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