Just Because We Elect Them Now...

Richard Conniff in the NYT:

But we need language to remind us that this is our government, and that
we thrive because of the schools and transit systems and 10,000 other
services that exist only because we have joined together. Instead of
denouncing taxes, politicians would do better to appeal to the
patriotic corners of our hearts that warm to phrases like "we the
people." "Taxation" is a throwback to the time when kings picked our
pockets. "Paying my dues," a phrase popularized in the jazz music
world, is language by which we can stand together as Americans.

I am confused as to what the substantial difference is between 1 king picking our pockets and 535 kings picking our pockets.   Just because I get the annual opportunity to cast a meaningless vote between the Coke and Pepsi party does not change my view of government. 

To my mind, this is the #1 incorrect perception people have about the American Revolution.  So many people, like this author, seem to think it was about voting and democracy.  Bleh.  The Revolution was about the relationship between human beings and government.  Voting was merely one tool among many the founders adopted to try to protect man from government.  Unfortunately, this intellectual battle is being lost. 

JFK was the president that first made it clear that those of us who love freedom have been losing this battle.  In his famous quote "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country,"  JFK defined the heads-statists-win-tails-freedom-loses choice that people like Mr. Conniff continue to try to present us with.   These collectivists define our relation to government as either the recipient of unearned loot or milch cow to the whims of the voters.  Neither part of JFK's challenge represents a relation between man and government a freedom-loving person should accept.

More on why voting is not what makes our country great here.

  • Aaron

    I agree. A least, I did. Until you got into JFK's role in this.

    Sure, JFK is considered the symbolic bellwether of liberalism and statism in the modern age. Liberals revere him as a minor God, and as a reaction, libertarians hate him. But, quite frankly, it should be the other way around. For all his statist rhetoric, JFK was perhaps the greatest president of the late 20th century.

    Consider executive order 11110. Had he not been assassinated, that order would have in time invalidated the purchasing power of the Federal Reserve Note and returned to a hard money silver/gold-backed currency. Far more logical and well-reasoned than the monetary policy of any president who came after him, that's for sure. JFK hated the Fed as much as any good advocate of liberty, and aspired to get rid of it and stabilize the currency. He deserves a lot of undue credit from Libertarians (and Conservatives) for that.

    Not only that, but President Kennedy cut taxes more than any president who came after him. He makes Reagan look like a friggin' liberal (not that it's too difficult to do that, but still). Before he came into office, the top marginal rate of individual income tax was 91%. He got that pushed back to a far more reasonable extent, obviously. While he (in serious error) didn't plan to couple that with extreme spending cuts, the cuts came anyway. It's because of JFK that we don't have the same ridiculous taxes on the rich that we had back then, and that's a good thing. Nobody else was really rallying for a tax cut. After all, this was before Friedman changed the playing field. And we've all gotta be grateful for his role in that. It's not a simple task to roll back a cash cow for the government; it's far harder to remove than to add, and he did it. Combine this with his acumen for foreign affairs (can you imagine what Bush or Clinton would have done in a Cuban Missile Crisis situation? I see a war a'comin', folks) and his general intelligence and sound economic policy and you have a recipe for, perhaps, one of the few respectable statesmen in the modern age.

    In all honesty, for all his highfalutin speeches and overdrawn cliches, JFK was probably the kindest president to capitalism of the last half-century, and perhaps in the top few for the century as a whole (Coolidge, of course, earns a spot). You're spot on in the corruption inherent in his words, but one should take much caution in attributing this doctrine to JFK himself. He certainly didn't follow that dictum to the extent that both parties use it today, and he certainly made serious efforts to roll back some of the more statist/socialist policies of his predecessors. Not too shabby, if you ask me...

  • Miklos Hollender

    Warren,

    I have a great new idea. Because the average person spends about 15% of his income on groceries, let's create the following scheme. Every month you pay 15% of your income to the grocery store. Well, as some people earn more than others, let's make it 20% for the rich and 10% for the poor to be fair and just. For this payment, every week you can pick up a shopping cart full of supplies, pre-selected to form a healthy and balanced diet by reputable experts. If you have are allergic to nuts, just fill out form 190/A/3 and it will be taken into account. Wouldn't it be great if you would be relieved from the hassle of shopping while helping the poor at the same time? If you pay more than whatever your supplies worth, you are giving charity, if you pay less, you are receiving it. Isn't it simple and straightforward?

    What? You want to select your own food? You want to be able to choose cheaper foodstuffs when you are saving up for a new car and reward yourself with some scampi and caviar when you got a promotion? You are worried that lacking direct feedback from customers the producers will be less incentived to maintain a good price/value ratio? You see fat possibilities for corruption? You think that the individual tastes and desires of people can be so different that no expert can create a perfect cartful of supplies for everybody? That people can have so different health conditions that are impossible to enumerate and plan for? You prefer to be able to choose whom to give charity to as there are some lifestyles you don't want to incentive, and when you do give charity, you want to give it in plain money because you think it's the recipient who can decide best how to spend it? Ultimately, do you think this system would benefit the grocery store and the producer at the expense of the customer, and this hard would vastly outdo any possible good it can do to the poorer customers?

    My, my. Aren't you just selfish and unpatriotistic?

    :-)))