“No, Taxes Are Not What We Pay For Civilized Society”

Submitted by Simon Black via Sovereign Man blog,

“Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”

The famous quote by US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. is inscribed above the entrance to the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service.

Most people don’t have a clue what he meant, or in what context the statement was made. They simply parrot it around to justify the state’s racketeering behavior.

The logic is as twisted as saying “war is the price we pay for peace” or “debt is the price we pay for recovery.”

They’re all logical fallacies, and assertions backed by zero objective evidence.

There’s not much that’s civilized about confiscating people’s assets at gunpoint and spending it on bombs, drones, and wars.

In fact, taxes in the United States are not even a civil matter– they’re an entirely criminal matter. As nearly every tax communication duly informs us, you can be thrown in jail for failing to file a form.

This is not how a ‘civilized society’ conducts itself.

At the time when Justice Holmes wrote that statement, the average tax rate in the Land of the Free was 3.5%.

Today they keep raising taxes, and they keep printing money, because they’ve built an unsustainable system that depends on debt, overconsumption, and war in order to maintain itself.

Everyone knows it can’t last. And to change the system, they put their confidence in the electoral system. As President Obama himself has said on numerous occasions, “Don’t boo. Vote.”

The truth is that voting is a complete waste of time. The “change” is always hollow; the new guy almost invariably comes an incarnation of the last guy.

US government debt now stands at nearly $18 trillion, and they’re borrowing money just to pay interest on the money they’ve already borrowed.

They blow through almost 100% of their tax revenue just by paying interest and mandatory entitlements like Medicare.

They could literally eliminate almost the entirety of government and still not be able to balance the budget.

Of course, no politician is ever going to admit that or act accordingly. So does it really matter who is piloting the Hindenburg?

The far more powerful way to vote is with your actions.

This, and the whole context behind justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ statement (it’s rather revealing, really), is what we cover in today’s podcast.

 

Play




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House Votes for Keystone Pipeline – Goes to Senate Next Week – Obama More or Less Threatens to Veto It

KeystoneNo less than three environmental reviews have
found that the Keystone Pipeline that would transport nearly 1
million barrels per day of Canadian oil sands crude to Gulf Coast
refineries is reasonably safe. This afternoon, the House of
Representatives voted 252-161 in favor of legislation
approving its construction for the 9th time
. With Sen. Harry
Reid (D-Nev.) about to be knocked off his perch as the majority
leader, when the bill comes up for a vote in the Senate on Tuesday
some frustrated Senate Democrats may feel free to vote for it next
week.

Because Reid as able to keep the legislation bottled up,
President Obama was never directly confronted with the problem of
choosing to veto the project or not. Thus he had the luxury of
vacillating between his union backers who want the project and his
environmentalist supporters who do not. Faced now with the prospect
of being forced to make a decision, the president has strongly
signaled that his instinctual anti-market ideology will guide his
actions. From
The New Republic
:

“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of
Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the
Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an
impact on US gas prices,” he said, according to
ABC News
. “If my Republican friends really want to focus on
what’s good for the American people in terms of job
creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a
conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown
energy? I’m happy to have that conversation.”

Whenever the president invites anyone to have a conversation
with him, what he really means is “shut up while I lecture you, you
moron.” Expect a veto next week.

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Nine of the biggest myths that people believe about the system

Myths about the United States Nine of the biggest myths that people believe about the system

November 14, 2014
Santiago, Chile

Years ago, an elderly, frail Japanese martial arts master once boasted a 200-0 record against his opponents.

He claimed to have a unique power that allowed him to inflict serious injury on people without actually laying a finger on them.

Was it Chi? Magic? None of the above. It was a total scam. But that didn’t matter.

You see, the legend of the master’s powers turned out to be far more powerful than reality.

His core following of students believed in the master so much that they would fling themselves across the dojo whenever he raised his pinky finger.

And anyone who saw the display would become transfixed by the perception of the mater’s extraordinary abilities. It was an incredible case of mass delusion.

Everyone believed it, including the master himself. He was so confident in his skills that he put up a $5,000 challenge that he could beat any fighter in the world.

A mixed martial arts champion accepted the wager, and the result wasn’t pretty.

As you can see in the video, the master is quickly knocked to the ground with a broken nose and a pool of blood. Observers scramble to find a doctor to come to his aid.

You can almost hear the sound of reality quickly taking hold from the gasps of his students. No one could bring themselves to believe that the master had been so quickly beaten.

To an outsider, it seems so obvious that this guy is a phony (just watch the video). But mass delusion is an incredibly powerful force.

We see the same effects in the West today—mass delusions everywhere.

People seem to believe their governments are almighty beings capable of performing magic—water into wine, debt into wealth.

Here are some of the biggest myths we see in the system today:

1. The dollar will continue to be the dominant currency.

This is a total farce. Grumblings grow louder around the world to establish a new non-dollar financial system, and China has taken the lead to make this a reality.

2. The US is still the dominant military power in the world.

If you measure by the quality of trained personnel, this is true. But what good is all of that military power if you can’t afford to do anything with it?

3. The police exist to protect the people.

Wrong again. With so much civil asset forfeiture taking place at the point of a gun (federally funded assault rifles), it’s clear they’re far more concerned about protecting those that maintain the status quo than protecting you.

4. Elections make a difference

Completely false. Most Western governments borrow money to pay interest on the money they’ve already borrowed.

In the US, they spend so much on mandatory entitlements and interest they could eliminate almost the entire government and still not run a balanced budget.

At that level of desperation, it matters not who’s in power.

5. Your bank is safe

Your bank might HAVE a safe. But if you look at objective data, many banks in the West have incredibly thin levels of capital and liquidity—the exact opposite of what a safe bank is supposed to have.

Oh yeah, they’re backed by poorly capitalized deposit insurance funds, which are guaranteed by insolvent governments.

And bear in mind that even if your bank is reasonably capitalized, you are still guaranteed to lose money on a tax adjusted, inflation adjusted basis if you you’re holding your savings there.

6. You have to go to college in order to get ahead

Quite the opposite—going to college in many cases can get you behind; just ask any 36-year old still paying down that $100,000 student loan debt.

The world is a big place full of opportunity. Skills and experience matter more than pieces of paper.

Here’s a better option, especially for young people: head overseas, and become an apprentice to a successful, knowledgeable individual that you respect.

Any young person who thinks that going to college is a good idea should just ask any of their unemployed friends saddled with $100,000 of debt if it was worth it.

7. I saw it on TV so it must be true.

Ufff. The mainstream media exist to paint a distorted version of reality so that people are kept placated, docile and largely clueless about what really goes on in the world.

8. Debt doesn’t matter because we owe it to ourselves

Whoever first said this must have a lot of whips and chains in his closet because he seems to enjoy pain.

If we owe the debt to ‘ourselves,’ that means that we will need to default on ourselves.

This means no more Social Security, Medicare, etc. It means causing the US Federal Reserve to become insolvent and spark a currency crisis. It means causing the collapse of every bank in the country.

Sure, no biggie.

9. The United States is the Land of the Free

Draconian surveillance efforts on its citizens. Punitive taxes, fines and regulation. Rising police state. Telling people what they can or can’t put in their bodies, how to grow their food, who to adore, who to hate. Preventing them to collect their own rainwater and live off the grid.

The list goes on and on. And so do the myths. Are there any more that you see? Let us know here, or on our Facebook page.

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Apple Now Worth More Than Entire Russian Stock Market

With Apple at record highs, its market capitalization is now bigger than Russia’s entire stock market (the 20th largest market in the world). What’s more, as Bloomberg notes, there would be enough money left over after selling Apple and buying Russia to purchase over 190 million contract-free 64Gb iPhone6 Pluses (enough for every Russian).

 

 

As Bloomberg adds,

If you owned Apple Inc., and sold it, you could purchase the entire stock market of Russia, and still have enough change to buy every Russian an iPhone 6 Plus.

 

 

Russia, the 20th largest among the world’s major markets, is not the only one Apple has surpassed. The company, which forecasts a record holiday-sales quarter and has $155 billion in cash, is also bigger than 17th-ranked Singapore and 18th-ranked Italy.

*  *  *




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This is the only vote that counts

Choose freedom vote This is the only vote that counts

November 14, 2014
Santiago, Chile

What’s the biggest lure of elections? That people have the ability to change things by voting someone else in power. At least in theory.

I try not to get too caught up in US politics these days, because that’s one of my favorite parts about going international—I don’t have to get sucked into it all on a regular basis.

US politics tends to affect you wherever you go, so more often than I’d like to I do end up check in on what’s happening.

If you’ve been following the election, I’m sure you know that the Republicans won a majority of the Senate and Obama responded by saying, “I hear you”, but now I’m just going to use Executive Orders to get things done.

That seems a bit anti-climactic wouldn’t you say? All that time and money spent campaigning, all those people interrupting their normal days to go vote—just to be in the same situation as before? For ‘change’ to be hollow?

People in Hong Kong have been asking themselves: is it democracy if the Chinese Communist Party chooses all the candidates?

Along the same lines, in the US when the opposition party takes control of the legislature and the president responds by saying that’s nice, but I’m going to go ahead with whatever I want to do anyway—is that democracy?

To me, this is the kind of thing you’d expect in a volatile third-world country that is pretending to be a democracy in order to receive international support.

It’s not real. Putting your vote in there doesn’t make a difference.

In fact, more than that, voting for politicians demonstrates that you accept the system. You might have your gripes with it, but you still have faith that it is fair and that it works.

It’s like coming home every night to an abusive spouse. You can say, it’s a good system at heart. I can make it change.

But in reality, that’s not going to happen. And by sticking around, you will just go down with it.

In the same way people are duped in every election cycle—“If we can just get the right guy in power…”

It doesn’t matter. The new guy just turns into the last guy. Because the whole system is broken.

As we said earlier this week, the US government debt has increased from $2.8 trillion to $18 trillion in 25 years. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has expanded from $285 billion to $4.5 trillion in the same time.

The US is borrowing money just to pay interest on the money it has already borrowed. This is the point of no return. It is arithmetically impossible for the US to ever repay its gigantic debt, since it just keeps adding on to it year after year.

To even start considering it, the US would first have to live within its means by balancing the budget—which would mean eliminating expenses for the military, Social Security and Medicare, which already consume more than 100% of the government’s tax revenue.

Of course, no politician is ever going to do that. So it really doesn’t matter who is in power.

Therefore a far more powerful way to vote is with your life actions.

Vote with your money by trading your dollars for productive assets, land, and precious metals. By doing that, you’re consciously deciding not to be involved in this corrupt debt-based system.

An even larger vote is by deciding to leave. By voting with your feet.

Opting out means that you no longer endorse the system, and that you are establishing your preferences by selecting one that is better. One that treats its citizens better and has more to offer you.

Demonstrating your opinion through your actions is far more powerful than expressing it on a piece of paper.

Is a single vote enough to make a difference?

In the electoral system definitely not. You’ve seen that yourself just this past week.

However, when it comes to voting with your money and your feet by leaving the country, you definitely can make a difference—first of all for yourself.

At once, you can gain greater freedom, richer experiences, and multitudes of opportunity. A better life and positive change? That’s what the point of voting is, isn’t it?

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Depression-Level Collapse In Demand: In Historic First, Glencore Shuts Coal Mines For 3 Weeks

In a historic move showing just how profound the collapse in global commodity demand and trade is, earlier today the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australia’s biggest coal exporter Glencore, which last year concluded its merger with miner Xstrata creating the world’s fourth largest mining company and world’s biggest commodity trader, will suspend its Australian coal business for three weeks “in a move never before seen in the Australian market, to avoid pumping tonnes into a heavily oversupplied market at depressed prices.” Putting this shocking move in context, it is something that was avoided even during the depths of the global depression in the aftermath of Lehman’s collapse, and takes place at a time when the punditry will have you believe that the US will decouple from the rest of the world and grow at 3% in the current quarter and in 2015.

This is a considered management decision given the current oversupply situation and reduces the need to push incremental sales into an already weak pricing environment,” the company said.


Glencore chief Ivan Glasenberg

For those who don’t recall some of the more paradoxical moves in the Australian commodity space in recent months, Glencore is not only the dominant coal exporter in the global coal market, but one which has continued to raise its thermal coal output in Australia and push its coal business towards a new production record this year, even as prices for the commodity crashed to five-year lows. Thermal coal is selling for about $65 a, about half of the $120 price from three years ago.

Said oterhwise, Glencore took the first and only page out of Amazon’s playbook and has been pumping excess production in hopes of crushing marginal prices to the point where its competition goes out of business.

Unfortunately, things are not working out as expected and earlier today Glencore surprised the market by saying it would shut its Australian coal business for three weeks, starting mid-December, shaving about 5 million tonnes of output.

As SMH notes, “while it is understood Glencore’s overall Australian coal business is the black, the size and length of the shutdown is unprecedented and suggests a level of financial distress at some of its mines.


Glencore owns 13 coal mines in NSW and Queensland

So in a completely unshocking turn of events, rushing to create the biggest loss possible finally backfired on the company itself.

Staff will be forced to take three weeks paid annual leave as a result of the suspension. Glencore has 13 Australian mine complexes, including about 20 mines and employs about 8000 staff.

Still, in a world in which non-GAAP appearances are all that matter, Glencore was quick to put some lipstick on this historic pig:

On a tour of its Australian operations in September, Glencore told analysts that its coal output this calendar year would be 14 per cent greater than in 2012. Glencore also has a series of brownfield expansions in the pipeline. Glencore stressed its positive outlook for coal in the medium term, when it tips the “supply and demand balance will be restored”.

Odd how it is always about the “medium run” where companies are optimistic, never the short run, especially when they suddenly find themselves in what can only be classified as a global depression in commodity demand.

And now that Glencore is finally facing the music, the question is whether the other two majors who also took the beggar-thy-competitor route to prosperity, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, who Glencore chief Ivan Glasenberg “has attacked for dramatically expanding production in the face of falling iron ore prices” will follow suit or merely double down making Glencore’s pain that much more acute.

Mr Glasenberg’s criticism of Rio Tinto and BHP for their massive iron ore-expansion programs raised the eyebrows of some in the market, given Glencore had been running its very own coal expansion in the face of falling prices.

 

Mr Glasenberg has repeatedly attacked the price impact of the expansion strategies being used by the iron ore majors, as part of his attempt to pitch a $190 billion “merger of equals” with Rio.

The rest of the story is familiar: crush the competition by flooding the market with ever cheaper commodities:

Glencore is forecasting total managed coal production of 168 million tonnes in the 2014 calendar year, beating a previous record of 157 million tonnes set last year. However, that will be lower, given the December suspension of its Australian coal operations.

 

Glencore’s total managed production in Australia is forecast at 94 million tonnes this year, up on 81 million tonnes last year, as its new Clermont thermal coalmine, in central Queensland, comes online.

And therein lies the paradox: by adopting what is ultimately a self-destructive practice, the iron-ore majors, facing crumbling global demand, are merely accelerating the deflationary pressures facing not only iron but all other commodities, as they seek to flood the world with excess production and put producers who cost of production is below the margin price out of business.

Something which Saudi Arabia is also allegedly doing to its US shale-based competition.

The only thing that is certain is that absent some massive global reflationary spark, many companies are about to go out of business. And should it be someone as massive and prominent as Glencore, the global deflationary wave will only acclerate further, leading to an even faster slow down in global growth, until finally decades of excess capacity and production find their new equilibrium with an epic slam, one which may involve yet another round of global taxpayer-funded bailouts.

For now, however, keep a close eye on Glencore, which may just be the canary in the coalmine. No pun intended.




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3 Charts About Income Inequality, Transfers, and Taxes

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has
released a study titled “The
Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2011
.” It’s
filled with tons of fascinating data and charts about how much
Americans make, and how taxes and transfers affect the final
distribution.

Between 1979 and 2011, CBO estimates, inflation-adjusted
after-tax income for the top 1 percent increased 200 percent. For
the rest of the top income quintile, the figure was 67 percent and
for the three middle quintiles, inflation-adjusted after-tax income
was 40 percent higher. For folks in the bottom income quintile,
inflation-adjusted after-tax income was 48 percent greater.

Quintile analysis of course is a series of snapshots that don’t
capture mobility between income quintiles; we’ll get to that in a
moment.

Here’s a breakdown of income quintiles, pre- and post-tax and
transfers, in 2011:

“Transfers” include “cash payments and in-kind benefits
from social insurance and other government assistance
programs. Those transfers include payments and benefits from
federal, state, and local governments.” What should be
surprising is that even households in the top 20 percent of income
pull down $11,000 on average in transfers even as they pay 23
percent in federal taxes on before-tax income.

Here’s how different quintiles saw income grow.

 

While all groups saw increases, the middle-three quintiles
gained less (40 percent each on average) than any other group.

Between 1979 and 2011, the Gini Index, a measure of income
inequality, increased whether talking about pre-tax or post-tax
income. In terms of straight “market income” (a measure of all
income from all non-transfer sources), it increased from below 0.5
to 0.59. Based on before-tax income, it went from 0.4 to 0.47. And
for after-tax income, it went from around 0.36 to 0.44.

CBO notes that federal tax and transfer policy reduced the
increase in after-tax inequality by 26 percent from what it would
have been otherwise, with the majority coming from transfers, not
taxes. That’s despite the aggressive—if often
unacknowledged—progressivity of the U.S. tax system, which is far
more progressive than systems of other developed countries. As
Veronique de Rugy has
pointed out in Reason
and elsewhere, European
countries typically charge more of their residents more taxes at
all levels, especially in the form of value-added taxes (on the
flip side, those countries typically give more straight transfers
to citizens too). The U.S. system, argues de Rugy, hides many of
its costs because “it disproportionately relies on the top earners
to raise revenue, it exempts a large class of taxpayers from paying
any income taxes, and it conceals spending in the form of tax
breaks.” A more transparent system might have lower marginal rates
but fewer if any exemptions.

So, does increased income inequality reduce economic mobility?

Intelligence Squared
recently hosted a debate on the issue,
featuring the Manhattan Institute’s Scott Winship, whose work is
often cited here. The entire debate is worth a listen but Winship’s
main point is that income mobility—the ability for an individual or
particular household—to move up or down the income ladder is
unrelated to whether the rungs of the ladder are being more widely
spread out. Winship is a critic of mobility rates—he thinks they
are too low—but he persuasively documents that those rates haven’t
changed over the past 30-plus years even as income inequality has
increased.
Read some his reasons here
.

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Is the GOP Ready for For-Profit Insurance Hater and Six-Day Evolutionist Ben Carson?

Hmmm, Armstrong Williams. That name sounds so familiar! |||Last weekend, Dr. Ben Carson
broadcast a new campaign
infomercial
in 22 states titled “A Breath of Fresh Air: A New
Prescription for America.” Concurrent with the Armstrong
Williams-produced
sales pitch
, Carson has finally
joined the Republican Party
, and
lost his contributor contract
with Fox News. The decision won’t
come until April, but Carson is running for president. So what’s
his selling proposition to either big-R Republicans or small-l
libertarians?

Mostly, that he’s a wildly successful
and decorated
pediatric neurosurgeon, with an inspiring rags to riches story,
who became an overnight
conservative sensation
after using a
National Prayer Breakfast
in February 2013 to
criticize Obamacare in President Barack Obama’s presence
. So a
guy who warns against the national debt, preaches individual
responsibility and agency, and has relevant personal experience in
the one policy question that modern Republicans criticize most?
What’s not to like!

Who's ready??? |||Well, a
more thorough search
of the political novice’s statements
quickly produces a potential conundrum for a political party
running against Obamacare: Carson has even more antipathy to health
insurance companies than Barack Obama does, and he has previously
advocated policies that look an awful lot like death panels.

In a
2009 interview
with the trilingual Web magazine Mega
Diversities
, Carson said “The first thing we need to do is
get rid of for profit insurance companies.” Here’s the quote in
context:

What do you need for good health?  You need a patient and a
health care provider.  Along came a middle man to facilitate
the relationship.  Now, the middle has become the principal
entity with the patient and the health care provider at its beck
and call.  The entire thing is completely out of
control.  The entire concept of for profits for the insurance
companies makes absolutely no sense.  “I deny that you need
care and I will make more money”.  This is totally
ridiculous.  The first thing we need to do is get rid
of for profit insurance companies
.  We have a lack of
policies and we need to make the government responsible for
catastrophic health care.  We have to make the insurance
companies responsible only for routine health care.  The fact
that a fraction of the American population has no health care
insurance creates a situation in which some end up in emergency
rooms, which results in even greater expenses for the US.  If
insurance companies are responsible only for routine health care,
you are able to predict how much money they are going to need,
which facilitates regulations.  For instance, if we didn’t
regulate utilities nobody could afford electricity or water. 
You can’t depend on the goodness of people’s hearts, particularly
when you’re dealing with something which is essential.

Even in Carson’s reputation-making National Prayer Breakfast
speech, he launched into his Obamacare section (with its focus on
Health Savings Accounts and consumer-driven decisions) with the
throat-clearing phrase, “We’ve already started down the path to
solving one of the other big problems, health care.”

Might be an exaggeration. |||Now, Carson also said eight months later
at a
Value Voters Summit
that “Obamacare is really I think the worst
thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” so maybe his
positions are evolving. (Conversely, maybe he talks more like a
serially hyperbolic motivational speaker than someone prepared for
the crucible of having his policy statements taken seriously.) In a
June 2014 Megadiversities
interview
, Carson distanced himself from the slavery remark,
and put his more recent positioning this way:

I would much prefer to replace the Affordable Care Act with a
program that put healthcare in the hands of the people, and not the
government. […] [W]ith Obamacare, we have a turning over to the
government your most valuable resource, which is what Marxists said
had to happen to change America from a free and open society to
what they call a “utopian society” where the government controls
everything, but no one suffers, at least according to them. What
you do see in every society undergoing a transition of that type is
the development of a small, elite class which controls everything
and lives in total luxury, a rapidly-disappearing middle class, and
a just as rapidly-expanding dependent class. We’re witnessing the
beginning of that phenomenon, and it’s exactly what the
neo-Marxists have prescribed for America. The reason I know about
that is because I’ve spent a great deal of time reading and
understanding what’s going on. This type of transition depends on
the fact that people will not be well-informed and thus easy to
manipulate. What I’ve proposed is a system of healthcare which will
cover all Americans in which no one will be a second-class citizen.
Everyone will have the resources to see whomever they want to see.
But more importantly, it will bring the entire healthcare system
into the free market. That’s what controls quality. That’s what
controls price.

So now we’re
throwing
more
Rules for Radicals
and The Naked
Communist
into the mix, but are we closer to understanding
a throughline on Carson’s health care ideas? In his Prayer
Breakfast speech, he said that his HSA-based plan would mean that
“nobody is talking about death panels” anymore. Which is
interesting, because one of the people in the past who was
talking about concepts that sounded a lot like death
panels was…Ben Carson.

His personal story is totally awesome, BTW. |||Via an excellent American
Thinker
 post, here’s an excerpt from a 1996
Harvard Journal of Minority Public Health article from
Carson, entitled “Health Care Reform-A Paradigm Shift”:

The most natural question is, who will pay for catastrophic
health care? The answer: The government-run catastrophic health
care fund. Such a fund would be supported by a mandatory
contribution of 10 to 15 percent of the profits of each health
insurance company, including managed care operations[….]

As our general population continues to age and as our technical
abilities continue to improve we will find ourselves in a position
of being able to keep most people alive…well beyond their
100th birthday. The question is “Should we do it simply because we
can?
It is well known that up to half of the medical
expenses incurred in the average American’s life are incurred
during the last six months of life….rather than putting them in
an intensive care unit, poking and prodding them, operating and
testing them ad nauseam, why not allow them the dignity of dying in
comfort, at home, with an attendant if
necessary?…Decisions on who should be treated and who
should not be treated would clearly require some national
guidelines
[.]

Pass. |||Bolding mine (as it
will be below). In his 2011 book,
America the Beautiful
, Carson again talks about seeking
cost-efficiency in the face of human aging:

[H]ow can we provide universal health care in an efficient and
cost-effective way?

Compensation has to be fair…compensation cannot be determined
by insurance companies, who make more money by elbowing their way
in as the middleman and confiscating as much of the transaction
between patient and  caregiver as they can. […]

When a society faces major changes, such as drastically
increased life expectancy, its people should examine the effects of
such a change and make logical, appropriate adjustments…we
should…devise compassionate methods of easing the burden of aging
both on the individual and the family.

I can hear some people screaming after reading this that
I am advocating for “death panels”
….some people like to
put forth terms like this because they stir up emotional
responses.

Another potential sticking point among both Republicans and
libertarians are Carson’s stated beliefs emanating from his Seventh
Day Adventist faith. Now, I for one am always pleased when a
potential presidential candidate becomes part of mainstreaming a
newer and frequently disfavored religion, and I generally don’t
care if people (let alone politicians) believe in creationism, even
the strict version that Carson emphatically defends in this

2013 interview
(“If they want to criticize the fact that I
believe in a literal, six-day creation, let’s have at it”). The
man’s faith certainly didn’t hinder his ability to separate the craniums
of conjoined infants
, after all.

Big book titles, anyway. |||But what’s concerning to me is Carson’s
prejudices against those of us who do not share his beliefs. Take
this
2004 interview
with Adventist Review:

Ultimately, if you accept the evolutionary theory, you dismiss
ethics, you don’t have to abide by a set of moral codes, you
determine your own conscience based on your own desires. You have
no reason for things such as selfless love, when a father dives in
to save his son from drowning. You can trash the Bible as
irrelevant, just silly fables, since you believe that it does not
conform to scientific thought. You can be like Lucifer, who said,
“I will make myself like the Most High.” […]

By believing we are the product of random acts, we eliminate
morality and the basis of ethical behavior. For if there is no such
thing as moral authority, you can do anything you want. You make
everything relative, and there’s no reason for any of our higher
values.

In addition to being prejudicial and factually suspect, this
kind of slippery-slope-on-steroids argument–taking you from
“evolutionary theory” to “Lucifer” in just 73 words!–translates far
too easily into public policy that adversely affects those on the
other side of his faith. Carson’s opposition to gay marriage
springs from an openly stated fear that the “neo-Marxists” are
trying to undermine the very bedrock of America’s uniquely
successful project by changing the definition of family.
It was not entirely a slip of the tongue when Carson told Sean
Hannity in March 2013:  

My thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s
a well-established fundamental pillar of society and no group, be
they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in
bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are, they don’t get to
change the definition.

Though he later
apologized
, the sentiment behind the quote remains; now he just
says that gay-marriage advocates are
basically
 “a new group of mathematicians who say 2 + 2 is
five.”

Definitely has more Presidential Medal of Freedoms than the GOP field. |||Carson is arguably a larger
figure within Seventh Day Adventism than Mitt Romney has been with
Mormonism. (Or at least, Carson was, until he became such
a high-profile political figure, which has led to some wings of the
church urging more of an arm’s-length posture.) Ex-Adventist
friends tell me of church gatherings where the prize at the end of
the meeting was to shake the great orator’s hand and get a signed
copy of one his motivational books.

As
Advent Truth Ministries
pointed out earlier this month,
the “one aspect of Dr. Carson’s identity that has thus far evaded
scrutiny is his religion.” And what would that scrutiny
reveal?

[T]here is one element of his beloved religion that would
certainly pose a challenge to the electorate, and perhaps obstacle,
to his presidential ambition, i.e. his church’s
Eschatology (View of end-time events).

According to Seventh-day Adventist theology, this very
America, which Dr. Ben is so passionate about
improving, will form an alliance with the Roman Catholic
Papacy, one that will deprive Americans and others around the world
of their highly cherished Civil and Religious Liberties
.
Specifically, the Seventh-day Adventist church teaches that this
alliance of America and the Papacy will force the world to honor
Sunday as a sacred day of rest and worship in opposition to
lovingly and voluntarily allowing men and women to choose the Bible
Sabbath which it believes God ordains. The church believes
that this controversy will ultimately develop into a tectonic
struggle of apocalyptic proportions in which millions will be
killed
who do not go along with the requirements of the
alliance’s call for Sunday sacredness (Revelation Ch. 13). Many
believe that this alliance is being formed before our very
eyes.

I am a religious pluralist and longtime fan of the Book of
Revelations, so this kind of stuff doesn’t trouble me much. But
it’s it at least worth asking how Carson’s eschatological notions
color his view of current and near-future events. 

Even agnostics? |||Real Clear Politics this week ran the
headline “Ben
Carson Making Case to Be Taken Seriously in 2016
;” the
Bloomberg Politics respectful
cover line
was “Ben Carson’s Longshot Presidential Bid Suddenly
Looks a Lot More Realistic.” He has been given policy real estate
in
National Review
, and had his charity hyped by
Breitbart News.

In presupposing the seriousness of his candidacy, Republicans
and other supporters are declaring ready for prime time a man
considerably less experienced than the current naif in the White
House; a man who plays fast and
loose with the Nazi analogies
, who has warned darkly as
recently as seven weeks ago that President Obama
might just cancel the 2016 elections
, and who maintains a
hard-to-pin view on Obamacare reform that involves open hostility
to the very existence of private insurance companies. Are
conservatives really ready for a 2016 presidential who, when
talking about late-life health care, sounds more like
Ezekiel Emanuel
than Sarah Palin? The first step is to look
behind the gilded oration and Iowa networking, and try to
understand what the man actually thinks.

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Inequality Is Cyclical, Skyrocketing Until – Periodically – Revolution Forces Concessions from Those Who Have Grabbed All the $

Preface:  Sometimes breakthrough insights come from smart, accomplished people in one expertise who look at a different field with fresh eyes … unencumbered by the dogmas and politics of that field.

Peter Turchin is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and an adjunct professor in the departments of Anthropology and Mathematics at the University of Connecticut.

Turchin’s new research interest is inequality.  Specifically, Turchin is now applying the mathematical rigor used in population biology to inequality.

We currently have what is arguably the worst inequality in history.  (We’re not talking about the 1% … we’re talking about the real powers-that-be.)

Most Democrats and most Republicans think we have too much inequality. Even the mainstream economists who fought the concept for decades now admit that runaway inequality is destroying our economy.

But we can’t take the current situation in a vacuum …

Peter Turchin notes that inequality is cyclical:

In his book Wealth and Democracy (2002), Kevin Phillips came up with a useful way of thinking about the changing patterns of wealth inequality in the US. He looked at the net wealth of the nation’s median household and compared it with the size of the largest fortune in the US. The ratio of the two figures provided a rough measure of wealth inequality, and that’s what he tracked, touching down every decade or so from the turn of the 19th century all the way to the present. In doing so, he found a striking pattern.

From 1800 to the 1920s, inequality increased more than a hundredfold. Then came the reversal: from the 1920s to 1980, it shrank back to levels not seen since the mid-19th century. Over that time, the top fortunes hardly grew (from one to two billion dollars; a decline in real terms). Yet the wealth of a typical family increased by a multiple of 40. From 1980 to the present, the wealth gap has been on another steep, if erratic, rise. Commentators have called the period from 1920s to 1970s the ‘great compression’. The past 30 years are known as the ‘great divergence’. Bring the 19th century into the picture, however, and one sees not isolated movements so much as a rhythm. In other words, when looked at over a long period, the development of wealth inequality in the US appears to be cyclical. And if it’s cyclical, we can predict what happens next.

 

***

 

In our book Secular Cycles (2009), Sergey Nefedov and I applied the Phillips approach to England, France and Russia throughout both the medieval and early modern periods, and also to ancient Rome. All of these societies (and others for which information was patchier) went through recurring ‘secular’ cycles, which is to say, very long ones. Over periods of two to three centuries, we found repeated back-and-forth swings in demographic, economic, social, and political structures. And the cycles of inequality were an integral part of the overall motion.

 

***

 

Our historical research on Rome, England, France, Russia and now the US shows that these complex interactions add up to a general rhythm.

 

***

 

It looks like the pattern that we see in the US is real. Ours is, of course, a very different society from ancient Rome or medieval England. It is cut off from them by the Industrial Revolution and by innumerable advances in technology since then. Even so, a historically based model might shed light on what has been happening in the US over the past three decades.

So what accounts for the periods of rising equality?  Turchin gives a number of factors.

One is revolution, when inequality became too extreme.  Turchin writes:

History provides another clue. Unequal societies generally turn a corner once they have passed through a long spell of political instability. Governing elites tire of incessant violence and disorder. They realise that they need to suppress their internal rivalries, and switch to a more co-operative way of governing, if they are to have any hope of preserving the social order. We see this shift in the social mood repeatedly throughout history — towards the end of the Roman civil wars (first century BC), following the English Wars of the Roses (1455-85), and after the Fronde (1648-53), the final great outbreak of violence that had been convulsing France since the Wars of Religion began in the late 16th century. Put simply, it is fear of revolution that restores equality. And my analysis of US history in a forthcoming book suggests that this is precisely what happened in the US around 1920.

Indeed, it is well-documented that runaway inequality leads to unrest and revolution.   And as Turchin notes,  – unrest and revolution in turn leads the powers-that-be to stop hogging all of the wealth.

The journal Nature writes:

Perhaps revolution is the best, if not the only, remedy for severe social stresses. [Herbert Gintis, a retired economist who is still actively researching the evolution of social complexity at the University of Massachusetts Amherst] points out that he is old enough to have taken part in the most recent period of turbulence in the United States, which helped to secure civil rights for women and black people. Elites have been known to give power back to the majority, he says, but only under duress, to help restore order after a period of turmoil. “I’m not afraid of uprisings,” he says. “That’s why we are where we are.”

We have repeatedly noted that we are opposed to violent revolution.  Activists like David DeGraw point out that things are going to dramatically change one way or the other … through a huge change for the better, or a descent into violence and chaos.

John F. Kennedy said:

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

Sadly, the government is doing everything it can to crush peaceful change, treating peaceful protesterswhistleblowers and investigative reporters as terrorists.  And the big banks are joining in the effort to make peaceful revolution impossible.

Postscript:  Turchin notes that another factor which at times reduces inequality is a pandemic.   For example, the survivors of the Black Plague could demand higher wages, since labor was scarce.




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