You are browsing the archive for 2013 April 12.

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“The Tax Was Most Popular Before It Was Laid”

April 12, 2013 in Economics

By Christopher Westley

On this date in 1913, from the New York Times:

POPULARITY OF THE INCOME TAX.
The Chamber of Commerce has directed an inquiry into the administrative feature of the income tax after a debate in which it was said that the tax would not affect 99 per cent. of the citizenship. It was suggested that this deprived the bill of general interest, and that it was sure to be unpopular on account of the narrowness of its application.

[...]

The case is worse than this. It will tax the honest and allow the dishonest to escape. The administrative features which the Chamber is to investigate are so complicated that those who understand them will make their taxes light at the cost of those less well informed about the law. The income tax law may be considered good nevertheless by some, but even those who approve the tax despite its faults cannot contend that the same sums could not have been raised more certainly, more equitably, and with less trouble to both payers and collectors by a stamp tax.

The experience with the tariff shows how hard it is to reduce or remove a tax once laid. It always seems better and easier to devise ways to spend the money than to repeal the tax. This fact will be better appreciated as the years pass, and particularly when the time shall come when this extraordinary tax–as it ought to be–shall be needed for an emergency. Then it will appear that this resource has been utilized and that the tax must be doubled instead of imposed initially. The tax was most popular before it was laid. Its unpopularity will grow with its life.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Cato University 2013 * July 28 – August 2

April 12, 2013 in Economics

Cato University is Cato’s premier educational event of the year. This annual program brings together outstanding faculty and participants from around the country and globe – for sharing experiences and perspectives in a one-of-a-kind, brain-energizing environment. Above, Senator Rand Paul – who will be giving a presentation at this year’s program – speaks at last year’s Cato University. This year’s program will be held at the Cato Institute, in the heart of Washington, D.C – the perfect setting for examining the roots of our commitment to liberty and limited government and for exploring the ideas and values on which the American republic was founded.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Walter Block on Austrian Economics as a Cult

April 12, 2013 in Economics

By Mark Thornton

Mainstream economists, especially those of the Chicago School, have often tried to dismiss the Austrian School as a cult. Here Walter Block takes on a couple of those accusers.

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Is the NAP a Useless Tautology?

April 12, 2013 in Economics

By David Gordon

Julian Sanchez has carried criticism of the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) to a new level. The principle tells us not to commit aggression; but, as Matt Zwolinski and others have pointed out, you don’t know what counts as “aggression” unless you know what rights people have. You can’t judge who the aggressor is simply by seeing who uses force first. The person who does so may be responding to a violation of rights and not be an aggressor at all. The NAP cannot, then, be used as an axiom to derive the rest of libertarian theory.

Sanchez goes further. The NAP is a tautology that adds nothing of importance to moral theory. A right is, by definition, a claim that is enforceable. “But all the real action is in the definition of rights; invoking the NAP adds nothing. It is tantamount to saying ‘only enforce rights that are really rights.’ To establish your right over (say) your car just is to establish that I ought not to take or use it without your permission (perhaps barring extraordinary circumstances, the parameters of which will tend to be implicit in the argument establishing the right). It is neither necessary nor illuminating to add the additional premises that taking what you have a right to counts as ‘aggression,’ and that one ought not to aggress.”

Here Sanchez has focused on the wrong word. He says, in effect, “Of course you should only enforce an enforceable claim. What else do you propose to enforce — a non-enforceable claim?” He is certainly correct that you shouldn’t enforce a non-enforceable claim, but he has missed something. He has not paid enough attention to “claim.” If you have a moral claim, then something is owed to you. Moral claims are personal. But some moral theories don’t tie the use of force to claims.

As an example, someone might favor transfers of wealth from billionaires to the poor on the ground that this will increase utility. The person might further hold that force can properly be used to do this. In taking this view, the person need not have rights in mind at all. The argument isn’t that the poor have a right to the transfers of wealth, so that if the transfers aren’t made, the poor have been deprived of what is morally owed to them. Rather, the theory holds that transferring wealth in this circumstance is a good thing to do …read more
Source: MISES INSTITUTE