Skip to comments.In Their Own Words
Posted on 04/23/2002 3:57:55 PM PDT by DaveCooper
The Myth of Ownership reveals the Lefts true colors.
The New York Times reported favorably Sunday on a bizarre new book that suggests that Americans should stop whining so much about taxes and instead be happy with the money that the government, in its benevolence, allows us to keep. According to this new book, entitled very appropriately, The Myth of Ownership, by two New York University professors, Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel, there really is no such thing as private ownership, because nothing would be earned and no wealth would be created without government.
This book is a great contribution to the debate about taxes, because it reveals how many on the Left really feel about private ownership . . . but wont come out and say so in public. Murphy and Nagel, thankfully, are not as constrained by this etiquette. They actually make the argument that it is a compelling fantasy that we earn our income and the government takes some of it away from us. They are the first academics to my knowledge who actually come out and say: The government owns the fruits of your labor, and your real income is what Uncle Sam permits you to keep.
The basis for the Murphy and Nagel argument is that there is no such thing as pretax income. There would be no income at all without government because without laws that protect property rights and so on, there would be only chaos. We are purchasing social justice with our taxes, they continue, and we should be pleased with the results and the small price we pay. Taxes can only be judged on the basis of what they pay for. Murphy and Nagel apparently believe that they are getting a good deal from all the good government we get with our taxes.
I tend to agree with Milton Friedman, who once said, Thank God we dont get all the government we pay for. But lets go ahead and take on the communitarian argument imbedded in the Murphy-Nagel thesis on taxes.
Very few people even radical libertarians would argue that we should have no government, or that our taxes dont provide some value. Yes, we need police, and courts, and protection of property rights, and a military, and roads, and schools. But most of the taxes we now pay are not for the basic services that governments traditionally render. Nowadays, government is simply an income transfer machine: robbing Peter, who is generally productive, to pay Paul, who is generally unproductive.
Today, about two-thirds of the federal budget is for income transfers from one group to another. Most Americans have come to the conclusion that these programs dont even do a good job of promoting social justice, whatever that means. For example, most Americans came to view the great welfare state as an abysmal failure that was creating multiple generations of unproductive citizens. And the evidence confirms that they were right.
This is where Nagel and Murphy are so fundamentally wrong-headed. They argue essentially that Americans should stop fretting about taxes, because we get our moneys worth in all the services government provides. Millions of Americans have just the opposite attitude. Hell no, we say, were not getting anything near our moneys worth out of government.
Government at all levels is now spending about $28,000 a year per household. Thats twice what government was spending per household after adjusting for inflation in the mid-1960s. Are government services better? Are the schools, for example, better? Few people other than Nagel and Murphy say yes.
This is where the Left simply fails to connect with everyday voters. People like Nagel and Murphy assert that middle-class workers have been virtually hypnotized into believing that government is a bad deal due to the infected culture of everyday libertarianism. Actually, government is a lousy deal.
Heres just one little example: In Washington, D.C., the private schools provide a superior education at less than half the cost of the public schools. And so it goes with almost every service government provides. I always wonder whether those who argue that government is as productive as the private sector have lately been to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
But at what point, one wonders, does the governments share get too large? One hundred years ago the government took less than $0.10 on the dollar. Now it takes around $0.40. In many European nations politicians take $0.60 on the dollar. In socialist countries, it was $0.80 to $0.90, and those economies eventually collapsed. In the 1960s Britain had a 95% top tax rate. This prompted the Beatles to write the song Taxman, in which George Harrison says: If 5% appears too small, be thankful I dont take it all. Harrison was kidding. Murphy and Nagel arent.
It says a lot about the politics of The New York Times, the paper of record, that this silly and flawed book received a fairly flattering review. Reporter David Cay Johnston writes that the book offers ideas that would improve the national debate about how we should tax ourselves, even if their views never gain popular acceptance. Why would that be, one wonders? Johnston ends his review by writing: What is more likely, unhappily, is that reasoned suggestions [i.e., higher taxes on the rich] will be drowned out in the din of mindless anti-tax sound bites.
Hey, wait a minute. Will someone please tell these writers that our nation was founded by patriots armed with mindless anti-tax sound bites.
Mr. Moore is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.
I always wonder whether those who argue that government is as productive as the private sector have lately been to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
They probably have, but like me, tend to want to forget some of life's most unpleasant experiences.
And it, like the authors of this book, is a pawn for the socialist engineers. Never mind that collectivism has been a bloody failure everywhere it's been tried, and that Karl Marx was crazier than a pet coon in a hall of mirrors.
I haven't heard that in... a coon's age!
Thanks for the laugh!
Interesting system ... they charge some people much much more for the same 'social justice'.
How much does that refrigerator cost? ... How much do you make?
I hope you've NEVER heard it before. I just made it up.
This book is a great contribution to the debate about taxes, because it reveals how many on the Left really feel about private ownership . . . but wont come out and say so in public.
Abolishing private ownership is the left's dominant and centeral goal, and always has been.
It is always good to remember the philosophical roots of the left which can be found here: Manifesto of the Communist Party, by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, published in 1848. Among their recommendations are these:
The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state ... . Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property ... . These measures will, of course, be different in different countries. Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in he hands of the state.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.