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Phil's Rambling Rants
September 15th, 2005
08:48 pm


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Ideas: Appropriate use of taxation

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[User Picture]
Date:September 16th, 2005 06:25 pm (UTC)
X could be money, physical force, moral authority, intelligence... it sounds like you're saying that controlling society is a very bad idea.

I contend that if we do not intentionally control society, society will nonetheless be controlled, with results that are probably as bad as the worst we could do intentionally.
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[User Picture]
Date:September 16th, 2005 08:28 pm (UTC)
And I am saying that there can be nothing that is held in exactly the same amount by every person, whether it is money, property, or any other physical commodity, strength, intelligence, or any other definable personal characteristic, or divine favor, moral goodness, or any other intangible. I suppose you could argue that all people are equal on some intangible scale, but I can equally well argue that they are not.

Any control on society inevitably affects different people differently, because a control only affects a person to the extent that they want to behave differently from the direction of the control, and different people want to behave the same way.

I guess maybe what you really mean is that a control is unjust if two different people want to engage in a controlled activity, but because of their unequal position in society one of them gets more of a chance to do it than the other. That inevitably leads you to the conclusion that the only just form of control on any activity is to absolutely ban any activity that is controlled at all, and leave no control at all on any activity too widely valued to be banned. Any regulation that requires that you show you can do the activity in a proper way gives an advantage to people who are smarter, have more connections, or have money or power to gain the smartness or connections.

A total ban on an activity, from one point of view, is the fairest way to control it, because everyone is denied the same way, but from another point of view, it is the most unfair, because the person whose entire existence depends on that activity is affected far more than the person who never wanted to do that activity anyway. A tax, on the other hand, is unfair from one point of view, because different people have different amounts of money, but ultimately fair from another, because each person gets to decide for themselves if the activity is worth enough to them to pay the tax.
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[User Picture]
Date:September 16th, 2005 09:24 pm (UTC)
you're either talking about something that just hands more power disproportionally to the rich or a complete re-write of the tax structure.

I *am* talking about a complete re-write of the tax structure. Or more specifically, the principles that should be used in completely rewriting the tax structure.

I would also point out that taxes on alcohol and cigarettes have done nothing whatsoever to reduce the number of people that drink or smoke. Maybe the tax just isn't high enough yet?

I don't know much about alcohol taxes, but cigarette taxes definitely reduce smoking. Not as much as I'd like. Maybe the tax isn't high enough. More likely, though, it's something where taxation alone can't have the desired effect. Taxation should be used to discourage smoking in proportion to the harm smokers do to themselves, but smoking in the presence of non-smokers should be a separate matter, and the appropriate level of tax would be indistinguishable from a ban.

Oh, and you need to replace "you" with "me" in this sentence, because otherwise the conclusion is false.

Actually, I should have left the last 'you' out entirely, it's a proofreading error. Striking the 'you', I stand by the logic.

As an example the current system in which the freedom of individuals is variably impaired depending on the crimes they commit. I suppose you could claim that people in the US have varying levels of freedom...in which case it's likely there is nothing you would agree that people have identical levels of to any meaningful degree.

I don't understand your point here. I do, in fact, argue that there is nothing that people have identical levels of to any meaningful degree. The only thing they should have identical levels of is the right to a fair hearing and the right to be treated as individuals, and I think you'll agree that in this society they don't have those.
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