First Progressive Maryland Videocast

My first videocast for Progressive Maryland with co-host Karen Guzman. The lighting is a little sketchy but we’ll get that fixed for the next one.

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60 Responses to First Progressive Maryland Videocast

  1. Jack Quirk says:

    Karen makes an excellent point. $15.00 an hour sounds radical as a minimum wage. But nowadays that might not even be enough. If the minimum wage had grown along with GDP it would have been in the neighborhood of $30.00 an hour by now.

  2. halginsberg says:

    Jeff – you apparently scoured the internet to find an article that supports your libertarian/objectivist ideology. https://tedtheeconomist.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/the-minimum-wage-adjusted-for-inflation-is-biased-propaganda/

    This is called confirmation bias. You believe very strongly that the American people through our government shouldn’t interfere with business operations despite the fact that the evidence demonstrates that economic “liberty” for the few who are rich and powerful people leads to poverty and misery for the many. Accordingly, you cite to a study that comes to an obviously absurd conclusion. What’s interesting is why an intelligent, presumably caring, individual would do this. Why do you do this? Rather than try to force data that doesn’t support your views to support them, why don’t you just change your views to conform to the evidence?

    • Jeff Linder says:

      No Hal I didn’t scour the internet for an article that supports my position. I merely took the first minimum wage and calculated what it would be in 2017 dollars. It’s not that hard. And Hal, stop telling lies. I did not cite a study…you only wished I did. I didn’t force data….I applied a simple calculation in response to your question. And by the way, I don’t think there is a “correct” minimum wage.

      • Jeff Linder says:

        Nice snide remark Hal. Are you calling into question my arithmetic? Did I answer your question incorrectly? It is you who has the bias issue. You’ve been told that if adjusted for inflation the minimum wage would be upwards of $10. What you failed to recognize, refused to acknowledge or simply took the claim at face value was that the starting point was not 1938 but probably sometime in the 60’s.

  3. Jack Quirk says:

    Well, Jeff is confusing inflation with GDP. I didn’t say that the minimum wage hasn’t grown with inflation. I said that the minimum wage hasn’t grown with GDP. In other words, the wealth that the country produces is being less equitably shared.

    • Jeff Linder says:

      You’re correct Jack I did confuse the two. But not everyone contributes equally to the wealth a country produces…why should that wealth be shared equally? If I work twice as hard as my neighbor I would should I not expect twice the reward?

      • halginsberg says:

        Jack doesn’t say the wealth should be shared equally. He says it is not now being distributed as equitably as in the past. Do you disagree? If so, why? Do Sam Walton’s grandchildren work billions of times harder than than each of the 25% of Americans with a $0 net worth?

        • Jeff Linder says:

          Thanks for telling me what Jack said Hal. Now where he claimed that wealth was being shared more equitably in the past escapes me. Maybe you can point that out. And since wealth has nothing to do with wages you question is loaded at best, dishonest at worst.

          Now if you want to equate taking something from A and giving it to B and call that “sharing” you’re welcome to do so. It doesn’t mean you’ve redefined sharing…it just means you’re deluding yourself of trying to delude others.

          It’s a well known fact you care deeply about the less fortunate…but only as deeply as you can reach into someone else’s pocket.

          • Jack Quirk says:

            I said “less equitably shared.” Since “less” has to be less than something, and we cannot tell the future, the “in the past” was implicit in “less.”

            And while prosperity need not be EQUALLY shared, it should be shared. It’s a matter of degree. There is no inherent injustice in one person having a swimming pool in his yard while another does not. But there is an inherent injustice in someone having five houses while others have to choose between food and medical care. In a country with as much wealth as ours, this is totally unnecessary.

            No, not everyone contributes to the national prosperity in an equal degree. But everyone who works does contribute. At the very least this means that everyone who works should be able to get his basic needs met and the basic needs of his family without hardship.

            Besides, the so-called free market doesn’t reward necessity but scarcity. This applies in the market for labor as well. Thus, an actor like, say, Johnny Depp, while he is certainly a very good actor, makes millions, while police officers and teachers make far less. I’ve long considered it an irony that a real cop makes nowhere near as much as one who plays a cop in a movie. Real cops are clearly more necessary than actors, but acting talent is more scarce. Hence, it is rewarded with greater remuneration. Those who advocate free-market ideology as if it was delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai need to account for this absurdity.

            So, while it is true that not everyone contributes to society equally, it is not the case that the remuneration people receive necessarily reflects their contribution. Thus, to make the case that a society where some live with vast wealth and others live in poverty is a fair or a just one you’ll have to do better than say that not everyone’s contribution is equal. You also have to make the case that the remuneration people receive accurately reflects their contribution, and that poverty is a fair and just reward for the ones who suffer from it.

          • halginsberg says:

            One cannot rationally disagree with anything you wrote Jack.

  4. Jeff Linder says:

    Well Jack, you could actually support your claim with some real data.

    And as far as your notion of injustice who gets to decide what is “just” economically and what is “unjust”? Does personal responsibility enter in that determination? You say five house, people like Hal say two. How about you itemize your personal assets right here for everyone to see and let us vote on what you get to keep and what you have to give away because we’ve determined that it’s just not “fair”?

    Now as far as remuneration goes what business is it of yours if a studio wants to pay Johnny Depp $13,000,000 for a film? It was a freely entered into arrangement. Who is going to decide how much Johnny Depp is allowed to get paid for his services? Is there going to be some kind of committee? A government panel?

    Its a slippery slope that’s been tried before and failed spectacularly.

    • halginsberg says:

      Jeff – we cannot arrive at a universally accepted definition of what is just. But the great majority of us do not believe it is just for some people to have billions while children, veterans, the mentally and physically impaired, or anybody else are sleeping under bridges. Do you agree with us? If not why not?

      If you do agree with us, can you propose a way for us to work together to eliminate this injustice?

      • Jeff Linder says:

        Very easy Hal. Pry open your wallet and right the injustice you see before you reach into mine. Why don’t you do what I asked Jack to do. List your assets and let us determine what you justly deserve to keep…after all, isn’t that you’re asking everyone else to do?

    • Jack Quirk says:

      Jeff: What data? What claim? Are you claiming that a real police officer is compensated as well as an actor playing one in a movie?

      Your appeal to ethical relativism is telling. If you’re really interested in an elucidation of what I consider “just,” I refer you to the Gospels, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the entire body of Catholic social teaching. I do believe in individual responsibility. But I do not believe in allowing human beings to go without necessary food, clothing, shelter, education, or medical care simply because they may have made errors in judgment that brought them to that point, and I certainly do not believe that they should suffer such deprivations because of circumstances beyond their control. I reject the ideology that would hold that basic needs are only for the cunning and the prudent. I hold that each human being, from conception to natural death, is an end in himself or herself. And I do believe that each of us do have duties to each other–on an individual, community, and worldwide level. I am no ethical relativist. I believe that there are objective rights and wrongs discernible to reason.

      I do disclose my earnings, every year, to the IRS. Last year I got a whopping (for me) tax bill, and although it came as a bit of a surprise, I do not claim that I was treated unjustly. We are, each of us, responsible to contribute to the community in accordance with our means. I will not disclose my financials to you, because you have not been deputed by the community for that purpose, and how much I have to pay in taxes is determined by the community through ordinary legislative processes. My point is that I already go through the process you describe, annually, and your demand that I do so is question begging.

      Your appeal to the “freely entered into arrangement” is also question begging. Laissez faire advocates constantly refer to the so-called “free market” as if it was a Divine oracle, determining the just distribution of goods. All concerns of morality and human flourishing must bow before this golden calf. My belief about the market, on the other hand, is that it is a tool, useful for some operations, but not others. Where it contributes to human flourishing we use it. Where it does not, we do not. While I believe it is a useful default position for economic operations, I do not believe it is worthy of transcending all values. And I reject the moral agnosticism that claims that there is no discernible objective morality by which we can determine the ethical value of economic arrangements or outcomes.

      So, no, I do not think we need a committee to decide how Johnny Depp gets compensated. The reason I made the reference is to show that the free market is hardly a Divine oracle. That said, Depp can get compensated as he and the studio decide. I actually am for minimal interference in such matters, though this is not because I think the market always gets us just or fair results, but because I want to minimize the violence of government. And when the the market results in human suffering that could be avoided by making alternative arrangements, then those alternative arrangements should be made. I accept no human casualties in the interests of ideology.

  5. halginsberg says:

    First, you did not answer my question. I’ll restate it: Do you believe that it is unjust for some Americans to inherit literally billions of dollars while others are sleeping under bridges?

    Second, if you do not believe this is unjust, why don’t you?

    Third, if you do believe it is unjust, how can we work together to eliminate this injustice? Your solution is for me to eliminate it on my own. That is not a viable solution nor is it a way for us to work together to solve a problem that we agree needs to be addressed.

  6. Jeff Linder says:

    First . No.

    Second. I don’t believe in fate. And one has nothing to do with the other.

    Third. That’s BS. You’re idea a “working together” is finding a way for someone else to pay for your guilt. How much do you really care Hal?

    • halginsberg says:

      Well – since you don’t find it problematic that some people who did nothing to earn a penny inherit billions while less fortunate children and veterans are sleeping under bridges, there is no room for any discussion whatsoever on this topic is there?

      • Jeff Linder says:

        Of course there isn’t Hal. It puts you in an untenable position. There are people in this world who don’t have adequate food, shelter and clothing. I say we take your resources and give it to them. Certainly you can’t be opposed to that.

        • halginsberg says:

          So will you join me in fashioning a fair tax code to which we would both be subject in order to guarantee that all have food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, and education? Or, do you believe that is the responsibility of others but not yourself?

          • Jeff Linder says:

            Define “fair”. Then we can proceed. Of course your definition will be self-serving, we both know that.

        • halginsberg says:

          Also Jeff, since you don’t care about the fact that your fellow Americans, including children and veterans, are sleeping under bridges, why do you insist that I bankrupt myself in order to help a few of them? I am looking for real solutions to a problem that you don’t believe is a problem right?

          • Jeff Linder says:

            Who said I don’t care Hal? Don’t confuse my reluctance to enforce my morality on other through force with and absence of empathy. I’m not asking you to bankrupt yourself Hal, I’m telling you to stop enforcing your morality on others. The government can only give what it first takes. You and I have the freedom to act on our morals, not the power to subjugate others to our moral ends.

          • halginsberg says:

            “Question from Hal: Do you believe that it is unjust for some Americans to inherit literally billions of dollars while others are sleeping under bridges?

            Answer from Jeff: No”

            ————-

            Now you say you do care about the fact that children are sleeping under bridges. If you do, what do you propose we do that will work so that this injustice ends?

  7. la ladrona creta says:

    All this talking
    Is like stamping new coins.

    In the kind while,
    The real work is being done
    By someone
    Digging in the ground.

    Jalaludden Rumi

    Just an idea, a theme that could be greatly expanded, a new living paradigm for y’all…Okeh, Jack posits
    a thirty dollar an hour minimum wage. I posit a thirty dollar an hour maximum wage, and a three
    million dollar cap on overall wealth. Also, the quantity is only one parameter in this equation, to wit:
    what kind of work? I feel that one who is working with the earth to help bring forth medicinal, nutritive,
    fiber producing flowering plants is equal in worth to any one else, and that’s just one realm, Some realms
    of wealth production are positively deleterious and should or would wisely be put forth to an informed
    popular vote with hand marked paper ballots counted at the precinct level by a non party son panel
    and certified and posted outside the place for any one to see.

    On to a brief commentary on the first progressive maryland videocast, which I much enjoyed. Karen,
    you are great, you express your self very well and there’s a light in your eyes that shows your compassion.
    Hal, you were well spoken and informative as usually you are. In the event that I was your advisor, I
    would center your image, take off your glasses, and ask you to look at the camera 97 percent of the time,
    like Karen, not three percent…otherwise, a lively first videocast. Thank you and au revoir

  8. halginsberg says:

    Thanks Creta. Very helpful comments. We’re recording this morning at 10 east coast. I’m definitely taking into account your suggestions. I can’t see without the glasses though.

    • Shade says:

      I know they’ve come back in style from the 60s, but I’m also not a fan of the big black plastic frames (with tinted lenses?), especially “on camera” with most of the light coming from the rear. I’ll also add what I’ve resisted to date – that you were younger & more vibrant looking in the pix you still use for your Avatar. LOL.

      Changing the lighting might help, as might adding a glass desk & showing some leg (never mind). Maybe you could read your notes from a computer monitor with a camera mounted at the top.

  9. Jeff Linder says:

    Jack,

    You have not supported your claim that wealth was more equitably shared in the past.

    You said “I do believe in individual responsibility.” Fine so do I. Why is it someone else job to fund the things you think are important. If your religious teachings dictate that you alleviate suffering why don’t you. Does your religion teach you to take from others to fulfill your obligations to your fellow man?

    I have never claimed the free market was a Divine Oracle. And I really don’t see what problem you have with Divine Oracles since you use them quite freely to support your position. You missed the operative word in free market. It’s “free”.

    And I just love the contradictions in your arguments. Your inclined to minimize the violence of government until it crossed your subjective threshold. And I love how you can make distinctions between injustices. It’s OK to have a swimming pool but not five houses.

    Let me ask you a question Jack. Let’s assume your city or municipality used to cut the grass of abandoned properties to keep things in check. Let’s suppose they decided that instead of the city cutting the grass they’ve now decided that they are going to designate citizens to cut the grass. They will appoint only those that they think have the time and resources to do it…you know…that’s only fair. Let’s say you’re the only one that meets that criteria. Are you OK with that?

    • halginsberg says:

      Jeff – there’s no dispute that poverty rates and the amount of concentrated wealth were both lower from the late 30s through the mid-70s in the last century. That was a time when we had much higher marginal tax rates and were implementing in earnest anti-poverty programs directed to improve the conditions of the poor throughout the country. Please see my latest post.

      My understanding however is that you don’t care about inequality or poverty correct? So why are you arguing with us? You have said that your value system includes neither compassion nor empathy for the less well-off since you don’t believe there’s anything unjust about babies sleeping under bridges.

      • Jeff Linder says:

        Jeesh…where to begin.

        Marginal tax rates are meaningless Hal. Effective tax rates are what’s important.

        As demonstrated to you before Hal, Johnson’s war on poverty (and its associated government programs) has made no discernible change in poverty rates in this country.

        Your understanding is incorrect.

        Why am I arguing? Because you want to force your moral belief systems on others.

        There is nothing “unjust” about it Hal. “Unjust” is a subjective term to which you wish to use as “justification” to take things from other people. If its something YOU don’t like then find like minded people in your community and do something about it.

        • halginsberg says:

          Okay Jeff – now we have a factual dispute. You say the war on poverty didn’t reduce poverty, I say it did. You say higher top marginal tax rates didn’t help reduce poverty, I say they did. So, if it turns out that I’m right and you’re wrong, will you change your opinion on whether the government should tax the wealthy at higher rates and use the proceeds to alleviate poverty?

          • Jeff Linder says:

            Its not a factual dispute Hal. I’ve shown you the numbers. Your refusal to rebut them is not a dispute.

            Again, higher marginal tax rates are meaningless if no one pays them. Effective tax rate is the only valid indicator. You can make the claim the higher effective tax rates reduced poverty but you would have to prove your assertion.

            You haven’t supported your assertion Hal so I won’t be making any conclusions on hypotheticals.

        • Jack Quirk says:

          Of course welfare doesn’t reduce poverty. Poverty is a function of the economic system. To alleviate poverty you have to make systemic changes.

          But that doesn’t mean government payments to alleviate poverty are meaningless or ineffective. Through such payments, the poor have more spending power than they otherwise have, and, thus, better access to resources than they would otherwise have.

          Just because you’re having trouble putting out the fire doesn’t mean you stop treating the burn victims.

          • Jeff Linder says:

            According to Hal welfare does reduce poverty. He’s asserted that on numerous occasions.

            What systematic changes are you suggestion Jack? Would it be income redistribution (i.e. welfare) by different means?

          • halginsberg says:

            Jack – you may want to rethink your statement that “welfare doesn’t reduce poverty.” The percentage of Americans living in poverty is inversely correleated to the implementation of various “welfare” programs here and around the world. The chart I posted at the top of this website demonstrates that very clearly. Social security, food stamps, etc., led to significant reductions in the poverty rate. See also https://www.theguardian.com/money/us-money-blog/2014/nov/12/social-welfare-programs-food-stamps-reduce-poverty-america

          • Jack Quirk says:

            Welfare doesn’t reduce poverty, Hal, it alleviates it. Of course, poverty should be alleviated. But welfare doesn’t eliminate the poverty creating aspects of the economic system. Jeff’s argument is that there shouldn’t be welfare because it doesn’t reduce poverty. My response is that is irrelevant. It isn’t the function of welfare to reduce poverty. If you want to reduce poverty you have to change the system. But that has nothing to do with the moral obligation to alleviate the poverty that the system creates.

          • Jack Quirk says:

            And Jeff, the systemic change that I would advocate would lie in the recognition of labor as a property creating event. As it stands now, it is ownership of capital that is so recognized. An investor of money is entitled to returns. I’m not saying that he isn’t, but we have forgotten about the investor of labor. That’s interesting, because money, unless it derives from interest or rent, is an abstraction of labor. It is the devalued value of labor reduced to transferable form. I say, “devalued,” because the employee cannot get the total value of his labor in compensation, or the business he is working for will never realize a profit. So, in our system, someone can invest an abstraction of labor and acquire ownership of capital. But he cannot invest the labor itself. The value the employee contributes to his company is simply appropriated. After he quits, is fired, or retires he leaves all of that value with the company, and the owners divide that surplus among themselves.

            Now it might be said that is a Marxist analysis, but if that is true, I do not apply a Marxist remedy. I do not say that the remedy is to make ownership of capital impossible. What I submit as the remedy is to recognize the surplus value of labor as a means of ownership acquisition on the part of the one who expended the labor. The employee thus acquires an ownership interest in his firm to the extent of the value he contributes over and above his compensation.

            In every other exchange on the market, the parties exchange equal values, or, rather, it is recognized that a completely fair exchange involves that. I pay $5.00 for a sandwich because, presumably, the sandwich is worth $5.00. But the labor contract is the only contract where this does not take place. In that case, the business must pay the employee less than his labor is worth or it will not make a profit. The only way to restore balance is to recognize the surplus value of labor as an investment in the company.

            That is a nutshell version of the change I would introduce.

          • halginsberg says:

            Poverty – the state of being extremely poor.

            Jack – you are simply wrong about welfare or transfer payments from the rich to the poor. They do reduce poverty and the data (again please refer to the Gini co-efficient chart I posted here http://halginsberg.com/usa-gini-coefficient-since-1900/) demonstrate this. If you disagree, provide examples of societies which do not provide welfare that have low rates of poverty and conversely strong welfare states where poverty rates are high. You may also want to consider how US poverty rates dropped very significantly from the 1930s-60s as we increased welfare payments and started rise and kept rising from the 1980s on – precisely when the government began to cut back on welfare and kept cutting.

          • halginsberg says:

            Jack – again we must part ways. Your sandwich example doesn’t withstand scrutiny in my view. To the buyer, the sandwich may be worth far more than $5 – if she’s hungry and there are few palatable alternatives available. Thus the buyer may derive far more than $5 worth of value from the sandwich. Her “profit” might well be $5 (100%) on the transaction. By contrast, the seller may see a profit of only 10% or less on each sandwich.

            In the labor market, there are countless examples of overpaid employees. But the bottom-line is that there are more examples (many more) of underpaid workers.

            Jeff – they’re underpaid because the profits they generate are far greater than their salaries and they are not paid enough to enjoy a decent quality of life.

            Jeff again – that means good nutrition, shelter, healthcare, education, a secure retirement, vacation time, and culture. Some (many) employers can’t afford to pay their employees enough for the latter to enjoy a decent quality of life. That’s one very important reason that we have and need truly representative government. To ensure that the “winners” (the Koch Brothers, George Soros, et al.) are forced (at the point of a gun if need be) to disgorge some of their winnings so that everybody can live much better than barely subsistence lives.

            Jeff yet again – I shouldn’t need to write this but the reason that many workers take jobs where they’re paid a pittance is because they’re poor and they and their families will fall into even more dire circumstances if they don’t.

          • Jack Quirk says:

            Hal, I think we’re talking past each other a bit. If you define poverty in terms of what a person possesses at any given moment, or his purchasing power at any given moment, then, obviously, transfer payments are going to reduce poverty. But if poverty consists of being in need of transfer payments, then the transfer payments, of themselves, aren’t going to reduce that need. It is this miscommunication that lies at the heart of disputes over the effectiveness of welfare programs. Jeff can argue that welfare does not, of itself, eliminate the need for future welfare. You can argue that welfare increases the purchasing power of the impoverished. Both of you can be right, because you’re talking about different things.

            My point is that whether or not welfare reduces poverty, by which I mean being in a financial circumstance such that welfare is necessary, is irrelevant. Welfare is a response to a circumstance, but it does not necessarily change the circumstance any more than treating a burn victim puts out the fire. My problem with Jeff’s position is that he thinks that since treating burn victims doesn’t put out fires, there is no value in treating burn victims. My problem with your position is that you appear to think that treating burn victims puts out the fire. My position is that we must treat burn victims because there is a fire, but that we also must put out the fire so that there won’t be any more burn victims (or, as few as possible–the analogy isn’t perfect).

            On the matter of the sandwich, you, again, appear to miss my point. In a state of perfect market equilibrium, values exchanged are equal. Now perfect market equilibrium is difficult to achieve in an oligopolic situation such as prevails in the United States, but that is beside the point (the point I’m trying to make). The point is that where market equilibrium prevails, values exchanged will be equal as to all goods and services except for one: labor. That is because the employer must realize a surplus over what it compensates labor in order to make a profit. Labor is thus systemically under compensated, even where the market works perfectly. But the remedy cannot be to require employers to compensate their employees at full value, since that would mean that their could be no profits. This leaves as the only answer to recognize, or recognize again, that labor is itself a property creating event. is an investment every bit as much as an investment of money, which is itself (usually) an abstraction of labor anyway. This seems to me the soundest remedy for poverty, which is largely the result of the appropriation of the surplus value of labor. That is my point, not that markets are always at equilibrium, which they surely are not.

    • Jack Quirk says:

      Jeff, if you deny that we are now experiencing a level of income inequality that we have not seen since just before the Great Depression, then this is no longer a fact based argument.

      If you do not, in fact, believe that the “free market” is a Divine oracle, then you must not use it as if it concludes all argument. The fact that the “free market” produces certain outcomes does not, of itself, justify those outcomes. You have to do better than that. Unless, of course, you really do believe that saying the “free market” is the ultimate determiner, in which case you do believe that it is a Divine oracle. If that is the case, your mere proclamation is insufficient. You must explain to us why this deity is worthy of such devotion.

      Minimizing the violence of government does not mean that it is never used. You wouldn’t argue (I think) against incarcerating violent criminal offenders. You wouldn’t oppose using the military to repel an invasion. Unless one is a total anarchist, he has some point at which he deems the use of government violence appropriate. Where the line is to be drawn is certainly a matter of human judgment. But there is no escape from that. It is an amazing fact that the same mistrust of human judgment gives rise to both “free trade” dogma and the colossal regulatory state. The philosophy behind both is that we need to have governmental and economic operations separated from human determination, and are both, to that extent, misanthropic.

      I put quotes around “free market” because it is a misleading term. Not that there has ever been an economy operating under the principles of the Austrian School, but the idea that there would be such a thing as a regulation free economy is fanciful. Contracts have to be enforced, and there have to be rules for enforcing them. And contracts entail an exchange of value. But what do people have a right to exchange? In other words, what is property? At the end of the day, “free market” advocates don’t oppose all regulations, just the regulations they don’t like, and while what they say sounds superficially principled, their argument is laden with assumptions they never justify.

      I didn’t say its not okay to have five houses. What I said is that it is not okay for someone to have five houses if that requires someone else going without basic necessities. In fact, I would say that about swimming pools too. I assess societal operations on this basis: if it operates so that every person in it gets a good bargain for entering into the social contract, then a society is doing what it is supposed to do. If it does not, then it is failing as a society to that extent. Distribution of resources is central to this evaluation.

      And, yes, this imposes duties on us too. Your cutting the grass query is interesting, because it, in fact, used to be the case that members of a community were required to come out and help make repairs to roads. We don’t do that now, not because it is wrong to make people contribute fairly to the society they live in, even in non-monetary ways, but because we have more efficient means of taking care of issues like that. So, with your hypothetical, I would doubtlessly object since it is more efficient for me to take my labor translated into money and give it to the municipality so it can hire skilled landscapers. But my argument would not be that I owe no duty the municipality to maintain public parks or public property.

      Returning to the government force issue, that power of government is utilized when necessary to protect the good against the bad, such as when we incarcerate violent criminals. When it comes to ensuring a decent living standard for all citizens, the same considerations apply. If we were to make charitable giving a wholly voluntary affair, good people would do it and bad people would not. This means that good people would be burdened in a way that was not true for bad people. But it is a bad set of laws that makes it disadvantageous to be good. Therefore, when it comes to charitable giving, we should have laws that compel the bad people to do what the good people would do voluntarily without laws. That way, only the bad people are disadvantaged. The good people are not disadvantaged at all, because they would engage in charitable giving anyway.

      • Jeff Linder says:

        You’re argument is invalid Jack. Claiming something is a Divine Oracle makes moot the actions of those involved. In a free market you have choices. To claim that results are determined by some power is to remove choice.

        “What I said is that it is not okay for someone to have five houses if that requires someone else going without basic necessities” If you make that argument its only a step away from claiming that it’s not OK for anyone to have more than anyone else.

        You’re argument about a “social contract” is a stale one. There is no social contract. Only those who which to control others invoke a social contract. Contracts are entered into willingly or they are invalid. I’m sure you covered contract law in your studies.

        If you are unsure about a what a free market entails and what people have to offer in a free market I suggest you listen to some of the fine lectures and Q/A sessions from Milton Friedman. They are readily available on you tube.

        If efficiency is your argument then your use of government to produce results is laughable. I can give a dollar to someone. If the government takes a dollar from me there is a lot of overhead involved before it finds its way into another pocket.

        Bad people/good people? That appears to be your whole argument. You attempt to seize the moral high ground by claiming how compassionate you are. The trouble is, you’re compassionate with other people’s money. How I choose to spend my money is my decision. It is the fruit of my labor., not yours. Robin Hood was still a thief, however well intentioned.

        • halginsberg says:

          Jeff – you mischaracterize Jack’s argument because (I think) you can’t accept its truth. Claiming that there is some level of income inequality that is unjust is not equivalent (nor is it one step away from) claiming that all inequality is unjust.

          I’m glad to know you are taking action against homelessness. Is your action effective? Does it have a proven track record? Have societies that have embraced this effort reduced homelessness? Perhaps, we can work together on this problem after all.

          • Jeff Linder says:

            It is only “unjust” if one party has illegally harmed another. So do you think its the government’s job to determine what level of inequality is acceptable? Give me a number Hal. Where does the government get the authority to dictate income and wealth?

        • Jack Quirk says:

          “There is no social contract.”

          That says it all, Jeff. Thank you.

          So there is no reason for me to help pay for the military, police, and fire department that protects you unless I see a benefit in it for myself. Or, for that matter, I’m free to contract with a completely different military, or police department, or fire department if I so choose.

          So that clears that up.

          But before I go, I would like you to give me your definition of “property,” and tell me how it is legitimately acquired.

          • Jeff Linder says:

            “Property” is anything owned by a person or entity. One acquires property by entering into a voluntary transaction with a another person or entity where “property” is exchanged for other “property” or a service.

          • Jeff Linder says:

            “So there is no reason for me to help pay for the military, police, and fire department that protects you unless I see a benefit in it for myself.”

            Sorry Hal, it also protects you. And it’s not a social contract. It’s a duty we’ve ceded to the government. And you certainly are free to hire mercenaries to protect you and contract with a private fire fighting outfit if you’re able to find one.

          • Jack Quirk says:

            Jeff, your definition of property is lacking. It fails to account for how property was acquired in the first instance. Yes, I can agree to pay for something that someone else owns, and acquire a property in that thing. But how did he acquire it? Through purchasing it himself, probably, and so on. But how did the first person in the chain acquire the item in question as property? Through making it? But where did he get the material? How did he acquire ownership in that material? These are the kinds of questions you need to answer before you talk about ownership and its entitlements. You have to talk about the foundations of ownership. Only then can you have a coherent notion of what someone has a right to own to the exclusion of others.

            I was the one that said that your theory entitles me to decide not to pay for the military, police, and fire department, not Hal. Your answer was: “Sorry Hal, it also protects you. And it’s not a social contract. It’s a duty we’ve ceded to the government. And you certainly are free to hire mercenaries to protect you and contract with a private fire fighting outfit if you’re able to find one.”

            Now, of course, the police protect me. But what if I choose not to be protected by them? I’ll save my money, and defend my own property. You say that it isn’t a social contract, but a duty “we’ve” ceded to the government. But whose “we”? If there is no social contract, what binds me to you so as to entitle you to speak of “we”? And how does this cession of duty occur without a social contract? Maybe I don’t want a military. By what right do you claim that I should have to help pay for one? By your lights we’re simply individuals with no duties to one another. If there were no police, it would be perfectly acceptable, according to your view of the world, for me to just stand and watch your house get burgled. So what duty am I ceding to the government? There is no duty to cede according to you. If you say that I have a duty to protect my own property, then I respond that it is my duty, and I am free to discharge that duty as I see fit. By what right are you able to insist that I do so in a particular manner?

            Of course, the irony here is that you use social contract language to defend the obligation to support the military, police, and fire department, while inconsistently denying the existence of a social contract. So, you have to decide. Are you an anarchist? That’s fine, but be a consistent one. If you are not, then you need to justify your distinctions between what are proper and improper public expenditures on their own terms. Don’t just proclaim that the government shouldn’t tax you to care for the less fortunate as if that was a truth that came down from Mount Sinai. You certainly shouldn’t do that until you have a clearer idea of what property is, and what entitles you to possess it.

  10. Jeff Linder says:

    “Now you say you do care about the fact that children are sleeping under bridges. If you do, what do you propose we do that will work so that this injustice ends?”

    You always make that leap don’t you Hal? You just can’t resist. I do something about it. You want someone else to do something about it.

    • halginsberg says:

      I’m glad to know you are taking action against homelessness. Is your action effective? Does it have a proven track record? Have societies that have embraced this effort reduced homelessness? Perhaps, we can work together on this problem after all.

      • Jeff Linder says:

        How much money do you need to solve the problem Hal?

        • halginsberg says:

          Jeff – rather than argue, let’s try to find common ground. You have written “I do something about [people sleeping under bridges].” That suggests that you find extreme poverty problematic just as I do. Since you are doing something, presumably you believe it will address the problem. Is your action effective? Is it expensive? Is it scalable? Does it have a proven record of success? Perhaps we should embrace your method. I am all ears and eyes.

          • Jeff Linder says:

            I’m asking a question Hal. How much money is required. If you have no idea what resources you would need to solve the problem then you certainly have no clue what to do. And as far as my efforts go…yes, they are effective. If they aren’t I will direct my efforts somewhere else where they will be effective. It doesn’t require scalability.

          • halginsberg says:

            You’re asking me a question. That’s a laff riot Jeff. All you do is ask questions but you never answer them. You say your efforts are effective. By what metrics? How do you know? Since you have engaged in these efforts to help others, presumably you want the rest of us who are able to engage in them too so we can solve a serious problem.

            Why should we follow your model? What evidence supports your contention that it is the appropriate way to fight poverty?

            As I have noted several times, the evidence shows that the war on poverty and anti-poverty programs more generally are effective. http://www.cbpp.org/research/various-supports-for-low-income-families-reduce-poverty-and-have-long-term-positive-effects Their costs are far less than the costs of poverty itself. Indeed the American Prospect estimates that if we spent just1% of total GDP – or 1/4 our defense budget – on anti-poverty programs we could eliminate it. http://www.cbpp.org/research/various-supports-for-low-income-families-reduce-poverty-and-have-long-term-positive-effects

            You demand a raw number because you are bound and determined not to accept that these programs work because if you did, you’d have to acknowledge that your ideology is morally and intellectually bankrupt. Well guess what? It is.

  11. Jeff Linder says:

    By my metrics Hal. When I volunteer and contribute I make sure my resources and efforts aren’t wasted. Rarely is it the fault of the charity…often its is the fault of the individual.

    As far as you cites go…they aren’t reducing the poverty rate, they are masking it. Since the implementation of the war on poverty, poverty rates have remained fairly constant.

    So again, I ask, how much money is it going to take?

  12. halginsberg says:

    Jeff – Your “explanation” that you make sure your resources and efforts aren’t wasted is no metric at all. Have your efforts made a noticeable dent in the number of poor people? How have you made that determination? Those are metrics my friend. Regarding your claim that government anti-poverty efforts don’t reduce poverty, that is absurd. Not only do they reduce in this country and mostly eliminate hunger and homelessness in other countries but they do indeed – contrary to your and Jack’s assertions – reduce the need for future transfer payments.

    “Programs that supplement the earnings of low-income working families, like the EITC and CTC, boost children’s school achievement and future economic success, and participating children are healthier as infants and have more economic success as adults.”
    http://www.cbpp.org/research/various-supports-for-low-income-families-reduce-poverty-and-have-long-term-positive-effects

    Finally, I answered very specifically your question how much it would cost to eliminate poverty in this country. I’ll answer it again if you’ll tell me what evidence you would accept as persuasive that welfare/transfer payments is essential in a civilized society. I’ll tell you what I would accept as persuasive that it is not. Examples of modern societies that have done away with government assistance to poor people that do not have poverty.

  13. Jeff Linder says:

    “It is the devalued value of labor reduced to transferable form. I say, “devalued,” because the employee cannot get the total value of his labor in compensation, or the business he is working for will never realize a profit. ”

    Wrong Jack, on a couple of levels. The ability to sell your labor doesn’t exist if someone isn’t willing to buy it. There’s that freely entered into transaction think I was talking about. Now if it were easy for the laborer to get the full value of the final product with the owner then they are free to do so. Likewise for the owner. If they could make the product on their own they would. They need each other.

    Who is going to make that determination of who gets what out of every transaction? What claim does the laborer have over the idea? What claim does the creator of the idea have over the laborer? None, in both cases. They enter into a mutually beneficial arrangement. YOU may not like it but YOU aren’t a party to it any more that I get to determine how much you charge clients.

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