December 9, 2012

Sheldon Richman decries “Romanticizing Taxation”

Filed under: Government, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:25

Of all the topics you might try to romanticize, taxation would certainly be at the bottom of the list:

In the debate over avoiding the “fiscal cliff” — especially over whose taxes should and shouldn’t be raised — I detect an annoying attempt to romanticize taxation. I read this as an act of desperation on the part of those who want higher taxes on the wealthy, for there is nothing romantic about taxation.

The other day MSNBC’s Chris Hayes invoked Franklin Roosevelt in support of higher taxes on the top 2 percent. Pulling out all the stops, Hayes quoted from one of FDR’s October 1936 campaign speeches […]

Roosevelt’s claim that we can judge the social conscience of the government by how it collects taxes is true in a way he could not have imagined. Contrary to FDR and Justice Holmes, taxes are neither a price (in the voluntary-transaction sense) nor club dues. On the contrary, they are exactions by threat of violence. Some social conscience! How ironic that organized society and civilization itself are said to depend on the government’s threatening peaceful people if they fail to surrender their property as demanded by politicians who presumptuously and self-servingly claim to “represent” all the people.

Far from some enlightened institution, taxation began when conquerors realized that formal and continuing appropriation of a subject population’s wealth was preferable to hit-and-run pillaging. For this to work, however, the rulers needed to convince the peasants that the regime would protect them from predators in return for their regular remittances. That’s right: It was a protection racket, from which the racketeers and their cronies profited handsomely. For the taxpayers, there was little choice in the matter. They weren’t buying protection as people buy insurance in the market, and they weren’t paying dues as they would later pay dues to mutual-aid societies. They paid or they were punished. The ideology of benevolent state protection reduced enforcement costs because the ruled outnumbered the rulers and widespread tax resistance would have doomed the regime. Things have changed little in our time.

Nigel Farage profiled in the New York Times

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:10

After all this time, Farage is starting to get serious media attention:

But for Mr. Farage, who has waged a 20-year campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, Strasbourg has become the perfect stage to disseminate his anti-European Union message by highlighting the bloc’s bureaucratic absurdities and spendthrift tendencies as well as by mocking with glee the most prominent proponents of a European superstate: the head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy. “I said you’d be the quiet assassin of nation-state democracy,” Mr. Farage has declared, as his target, Mr. Van Rompuy, squirmed in his seat just opposite, “and sure enough, in your dull and technocratic way, you’ve gone about your course.”

His speeches mix the pitch-perfect timing of a stand-up comedian — he once told Mr. Van Rompuy that he had the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a bank clerk — with a populist passion that critics say approaches demagogy, and they have become wildly popular on YouTube.

[. . .]

“All of us are selling a product,” said Mr. Farage, who before turning to politics worked as a commodities trader. He swallowed from his glass of Rioja, on his way to putting a sizable dent in the bottle, during a lunchtime interview this fall in the parliamentary dining room here. “But neither of these guys ever worked in the commercial sector where they had to sell something,” he continued. “They are ghastly people, and neither pass the Farage test: Would I employ them or would I want to go have a drink with them?”

The very thought of raising a pint with either Mr. Barroso or Mr. Van Rompuy elicits a cigarette-scarred chortle from Mr. Farage. With his dapper suits, cuff links and love of a wine-soaked lunch, Mr. Farage can come across as a caricature of a past-his-prime City of London financier — a loudish type that one frequently encounters in pubs in the wealthy suburbs, sounding off on cricket and the latest bureaucratic atrocity in Brussels.

Frank Fleming asks why the Republicans are so down on Susan Rice

Filed under: Government, Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:01

He’s genuinely puzzled at the Republican stance:

The Republicans’ opposition to Susan Rice’s potentially becoming the next secretary of state is pretty hard to understand.

It wasn’t long ago that Republicans were all for a different black woman named Condoleezza Rice taking the same job — is the GOP just bigoted about the name Susan?

Republicans’ stated objections to Rice make no sense. They complain that she’s “dishonest” and “incompetent,” to which she could easily respond, Well, duh, that’s why I work for the government.

[. . .]

This idea that President Obama should only appoint honest, competent people is really unfair. The guy is a Chicago politician; he’s probably never once met anyone like that.

Just look at his first Cabinet to see how out-of-the-blue this demand for competency is. He has a treasury secretary who couldn’t figure out how to pay his own taxes. His attorney general leads a Justice Department that somehow thought selling guns to Mexican drug cartels would have good results.

Then there are Obama’s secretaries of commerce, who were supposed to be promoting job creation and economic growth — who in the world knows what they’ve been up to these past four years?

Really, looking at the administration as a whole, Obama did better than we could have expected by appointing only one czar who was a Communist truther.

Verizon attempts to patent creepy targeted ad delivery technology

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:02

Verizon wants your TV to carefully observe you so it can deliver ads tailored for whatever activity you might be doing:

The U.S. Patent Office has delivered a “non-final” rejection of a Verizon patent application for a controversial technology that would have served targeted ads to TV viewers based on what they might be doing or saying in front of their sets.

[. . .]

The patent in question has been the subject of intense media scrutiny since FierceCable uncovered it last week. Verizon’s somewhat laboriously titled the patent application “Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement Associated with an Ambient Action of a Use.”

The application says the technology would be capable of triggering different advertisements depending on whether a viewer or viewers might be eating, playing, cuddling, laughing, singing, fighting or gesturing in front of their sets. Specifically, the patent covers technology that can serve ads “…targeted to the user based on what the user is doing, who the user is, the user’s surroundings, and/or any other suitable information associated with the user.”

Privacy? You don’t need that, because we need to sell you shit.

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