Government that Works

As discussed earlier, ideal capitalism, while allowing personal freedom, compounds the suffering of the poor and destitute. Ideal socialism, on the other hand, saves the economic welfare of the poor at the expense of everyone’s privacy and diversity. Any worthwhile economic governmental system, if one exists, must solve both problems.

In addition, no government idea that requires everyone, or even most people, to follow a particular mindset or carry out a series of specified actions will work — people are just too different for such a system to function.

So what could work? Here are some ideas:

  • Government as Business. In this system, the central government itself employs people, like any other business, in for-profit ventures. This would provide a much higher rate of employment and even decrease the need for taxes, due to the earnings of the business. However, this could be considered unfair, because the government also has the power of economic regulation.
  • Welfare Capitalism. The government is obligated to provide amenities, like food, clothing, and shelter, or simply flat sums of money, to everyone who does not or cannot make the sufficient amount by themselves. Theoretically unassailable, this scenario is marred by its huge expense.
  • The patron-client system. Known foremost as the mechanism of Ancient Rome’s social stability, this involves the rich, or patrons, being directly responsible for the welfare of their poorer clients and supporting them in their endeavors. For such an idea to re-emerge, it would have to be modernized and strictly enforced.

All of these ideas, to some extent, do exist in modern-day America. The public sector employs over two million citizens. Examples of welfare such as food stamps and Medicare do form a safety net, if not an airtight one. And though the benefits are not enforced in any way, the doctrines of supply-side economics pays lip service to the idea of the rich and corporations supporting the poor.

Most of these programs are steps in the right direction. But over 43 million Americans live in poverty — what is being done is not nearly enough. #

kjk

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Thoughts on Corporate Taxation

The most frequent argument against American states raising corporate taxes that I have seen is that this will cause corporations to move their headquarters out of the state in question, transferring their jobs and patronage to another state in the process.

But this argument has a fundamental flaw. Besides having the general defeatist tone of a state that is enslaved to corporations for its well-being, it underestimates the power of the state itself to regulate commerce.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution

In context, since the ability to regulate intrastate business activity is not barred from the states by the Constitution, the Tenth Amendment allows states to levy taxes on any and all entities that do business in a state, whether they reside there or not. It is perfectly legal for the government of Wisconsin to tax an Illinois citizen for activity in Wisconsin; why should an Illinois corporation be any different?

Besides, the state government could lower taxes on businesses that choose to host their headquarters in the state itself, creating a positive incentive to create jobs there. #

kjk

Taxes, part two

As I explained in Taxes, part one, taxes are a necessity. However, there are different types of taxation, and some are more just or practical than others. The earliest type of ‘tax’ was a corvée, or head labor requirement. Corvées were used to provide the labor for the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China (under the Qin dynasty), and formed the basis of the feudal system of government.

In the modern day, corvées are seen by most who encounter the idea as barbaric and unjust. But why is this?

To address this question, we regard the two major ways in which tax systems have changed from ancient and classical times to the present. Firstly, the accepted method of payment has changed from concrete labor to abstract currency. This is a major factor in the seeming backwardness and impracticality of corvées. However, rounding up every single citizen and making them pay a certain fixed sum to the government, called a head or capitation tax, still strikes us as somehow too general, unfeeling, or simply unfair. In fact, Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution specifically prohibits capitation taxes by name.

The other gradual but important historical change in tax policy was the advent of proportionality. (I am not using the word here to refer specifically to “flat” taxes, rather to the proportional concept in general.) This is simply the principle that not everyone should pay the same amount; that not everyone even has the ability to pay a capitation tax equally; that corvées, head taxes, and any other tax policy that fails to consider payment ability is simply unjust.

Most tax policies seen today in the modern United States pass the test of proportionality. However, a blind eye must not be turned to the anomalous and arbitrary practice of property tax policy, specifically real estate taxation. This taxation, carried out mainly by state and local governments, does not in fact consider the proportionality principle. Ownership of a parcel of property does not guarantee the ability to pay a certain specific amount of money – property cannot be, in general, directly or indirectly translated into income – or vice versa. Therefore, real estate taxation is biased against the lower classes of society (it is an example of regressive taxation), because the upper classes, in practice, will be able to pay any such tax, whereas the poor may not have a sufficient source of income. Income and sales taxes avoid this problem by taxing money specifically earned or used.

Again, taxation systems more closely follow the principle of proportionality in modern times than in any other eras of history. However, America’s tax policy still contains injustice, to which I will later present possible remedies. #

kjk

Neither Holy nor Matrimonial

Given the liberal content of my previous posts, you will probably not be surprised to know that I wholeheartedly support legalizing same-sex marriage (as well as legal rights and protections for homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered persons). However, in the proverbial mundus perfectus, I again propose something far more radical.

In the United States and most other countries today, the concept of “marriage” has a twofold meaning: the relatively simple legal definition, detailing benefits and shared financial and visitation arrangements between most often two different parties; and the complex, varied traditions of most cultures, societies, and religions,  such as the associated Christian commandments and beliefs, the Islamic tradition, the Church of Latter-day Saints traditions, the general American belief in a loving marriage, and the traditional custom of arranged marriage in many cultures worldwide. Using the same word for both a legal union and cultural bond is quite misleading, and quite possibly the root of many of the current moral and legal debates on the issue.

I propose that the entwined concepts of legal union and cultural marriage should be, as it were, divorced. The word “marriage”, and the cultural and social values associated with it should be struck entirely from the law books. Instead, the federal government should provide for a “legal union” between any two consenting citizens with all the same benefits and rights presently granted to marriage. (“Civil unions” in the United States presently do not offer nearly the same standard of legal rights.) What is or is not a “marriage” is for prevailing and other cultures to decide, not the government itself, which should be concerned with legal matters. Under this system, gay and lesbian couples would enjoy the exact same rights and status as heterosexual ones, but the government would still not be granting “marriage”, a cultural institution over which it has no inherent power, to homosexual couples, so the so-called moral concerns of the conservative right would be suddenly made baseless. #

kjk

Opportunity

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

– Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus

The vast majority of Americans would no doubt consider their society free and open if asked. In the very same breath, many would also denounce “illegal aliens”, “immigrants”, or even “Mexicans” in general. The level of blatant xenophobia we see in the United States today, against Hispanic people, Arabs, and Muslims, among others, parallels only one other time in American history: the mid-19th century, known among other things for the Know-Nothing Party, nativism, and discrimination against Chinese, Irish, and Catholic immigrants. We look upon that era with disgust but fail to see the parallel to our modern society. If we look upon America as such a land of opportunity, why are we treating it as an exclusive, high-society club, where we only let people in if they agree to all our views?

I am not arguing for the passage of the DREAM Act. I am proposing something infinitely more radical. I seek nothing less than granting permanent U.S. citizenship to anyone who seeks it – and amnesty to all past illegal immigrants that seek citizenship.

Why should entering American soil be a crime? There is no reason to distinguish between jobs “stolen” by Mexican immigrants, and those transferred to American citizens born here. Certain people, however, are enraged by the former, while treating the latter as a fact of life – a view that can only be called xenophobia. #

kjk