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Megan McArdle at the Atlantic has some interesting things to say about taxes in the wake of Warren Buffet's op-ed. I hadn't heard of the Chesterton's Fence Fallacy before, but I recognized it as soon as I read the description, because the same principle applies to programmers: don't fuck with code you don't fully understand. It was written for a reason. They might not be good reasons, but you can't make that judgment until you know the reasons.

Ms. McArdle also makes some good points about the purpose of the tax code, which is primarily to fund the government, not to promote a notion of social justice. She also explains, rather bluntly, why labor income is taxed at a higher rate than capital income: if you work for a living, the government has you by the balls. What are you going to do, flee the country?
Larry Kollar's profile photoDrew Nicholson's profile photoMatthew Graybosch's profile photoKaty Weaver's profile photo
>>Ms. McArdle also makes some good points about the purpose of the tax code, which is primarily to fund the government, not to promote a notion of social justice.

Except that the purpose of Government is to provide that social justice. So she misses the point.
+Drew Nicholson, I think the purpose of government is a separate issue from the purpose of taxation, and should be debated elsewhere. As far as I'm concerned, the purpose of government is to protect individual rights.
The purpose of taxation is to fund government purposes.
And you think the purpose of government is the promotion of social justice, which leaves us where we started.
I think that individual rights and social justice are the same thing. All I'm saying is that it's hard to debate the purpose of taxation without debating the purpose of government. Taxation is simply the means; government decides the ends.
I can't object to anything you've said, +Thom Miller, but I still think it's reasonable to distinguish between the purpose of taxation, and the purpose of government as a whole, since most taxes aren't earmarked for a particular purpose.
Perhaps what we need for healing and change in this country is for them to start earmarking taxes. Want a new initiative? Make it a different tax. HR people will hate it and might need a new paystub layout template, but I think it would do a lot to help people understand what the taxes are being used for.

I often tell the tea party people I know that you can't be patriotic and support the troops and not also support maintaining or raising taxes. You'll notice they have a fervor to axe every department but the DoD -why is that?
In part because a lot of Tea Party members are really just republicans, and a lot of them simply don't understand how government works, and even more of them believe in American Dominionism.
+Katy Weaver, I say screw the HR people. I agree with you. Everything the government does should be funded directly by its own tax. If the program is canceled, repeal the tax. This includes the military, by the way. If you need to raise an army, then by all means impose a tax that will fund the costs of recruiting, training, and mobilizing soldiers. However, I don't think the government should be permitted to maintain a standing military, as we've seen in the 20th century that if the US has a standing military, it will look for excuses to use it.
+Drew Nicholson, I think that individual rights are sometimes at cross purposes with social justice, but explaining that would require getting into the distinction between negative rights and positive rights.
Keep in mind that this will lead to a pretty nice tyranny of the majority. Funding for drug rehab? Unlikely. Funding for lots of new prisons? Oh, hell yeah. Funding for a new space station or any space program at all? Unlikely. There needs to be a general fund if you want things like the NEA, NEH, heck, probably even for the CDC to be funded.
+Drew Nicholson, we already have tyranny of the majority. Look at the US government's current funding priorities. 20% goes to the military-industrial complex. How much goes to the other programs you mention? Fuck-all, compared to the military budget.
I know that, but at least things like NPR and the NEA still have SOME funding.
I don't think there's anything I can thank modern Republicans for.
+Drew Nicholson, you don't want to thank them for protecting your freedom (to do what you're told and bust your ass so somebody else can profit) from foreigners who hate you (because the American empire isn't content to be meddlesome at home)?
heh. The american military hasn't really been used to protect the US since, well, WWII, really.
Probably. Certainly, Nicaragua and Iraq weren't necessary.
I don't think the government should be permitted to maintain a standing military,

According to the Constitution that the teabaggers are always nattering about, the government isn't permitted to maintain a standing army. A navy, yes. But any army-type military action is supposed to be reviewed by Congress every three years to see if it's still needed.
Exactly, +Larry Kollar, and the same can be said about the Marine Corps, unless we fold the USMC back into the Navy. We'll let the SCOTUS deal with the Air Force.
I thought the Marines WERE part of the Navy.
+Drew Nicholson, they're part of the Navy from a civilian leadership standpoint. From a military leadership standpoint, they're a separate branch (even though some sailors might insist that MARINE stands for "My Ass Rides in Navy Equipment").
Having worked for two of the major branches of our military.. yes, by all means, let's keep the AF, let the Army go home, and think about the Navy. If they really want to take a military action somewhere and need an Army, let's have a draft. What a shocking idea.

In reality though, I am surprised no one has wandered by to point out that fighting at a professional level means having professional fighters, which means a standing military. And thus, we are stuck. Ike was right when he warned us to be careful of the strong ties between the military and industry; those ties are driving so much of our nation's spending, planning, and interaction with other nations that it is almost appalling. I know I have a different view from most due to work experience.. we get a lot of good research out of our military branches, but a fraction of the money going into research is actually spent on conducting useful research.

I keep waiting for them to release the total budget % for unfunded budget items without a black hole - so that we can see just how much they really, really spend at DoD and on contractors.
+Katy Weaver, I agree with you, with one caveat where the draft is concerned. If we're going to draft people, we need to draft men and women. It's only fair.
Not disagreeing on that, +Matthew Graybosch, only having men register for selective service is pretty sexist.

It's not the sophistication of the materials, +Thom Miller, its having a few people on hand with a full understanding of how everything works. From military folks I've talked to about this issue.. they feel like at least parts of leadership needs to be standing (think platoon commanders). I don't know if I agree... but it is a commonly cited reason to maintain a standing organization.
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