Monday, February 05, 2007

Tax Policy

Today, Professor Yale called on me and made me explain my response paper. Response papers are supposed to be 3-4 pages: I wrote ten on the topic "Create a just tax." I demurred but the professor prodded me, so I gave a fifteen minute speech on why Rawlsian social contract theory and utilitarianism were unacceptable, why Locke was right, what the proper role of the state was, what that implied about taxation.

ME: Look. Rawlsian social contractualism and utilitarianism are both unacceptable moral theories, so you can't base a just tax on them...

ME: For one thing, utilitarianism is wrong because happiness isn't all that great.

YALE: He said grumpily.

ME: What? Oh yeah. Yeah, I tried for years to be happy, but it never really worked. So nowadays I just try to be dry and cynical and I find life much more enjoyable...

ME: Utilitarianism is crap...

ME: I allow that some social services may be necessary to bribe the proletariat of course, though it doesn't come anywhere close to justifying current government expenditures....

ME: One, the argument that educating others makes me better off is false. They may provide better services, but that only means I have to pay more for it--it's a wash...

ME: Your argument is that the entire US government is engineered to serve the wealthy? Yes? Well, in that case, I have no problem with it...

YALE: A response to that is that in the state of nature, there would be no cities, no buildings, no society. The war of all against all.

ME: That wasn't, incidentally, what Locke believed.

YALE: I haven't read Locke, maybe you could help me out.

ME: I haven't read him either. I have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm just waiting for somebody to call me on it--I'm surprised it hasn't occurred already.

Luckily the rest of the class thought I was too far out there to even merit rebuttal. Which I count as a technical victory.

2 comments:

Wild Pegasus said...

Hobbes believed that there would be a war of all against all without the state. But then again, he was trying to justify a Christian totalitarianism, so I don't know we should take him at his word.

Although we haven't had anything like full-blown market anarchism, we've seen societies where the state did a whole lot less, and they worked just fine.

- Josh

Scott said...

You've sold me.

But even assuming government is beneficial, people have a misconception that Locke's state of nature was a nasty place, when it wasn't. It was just inconvenient.

Other Catallarchs have ventured that the thought that government is necessary to impose order has much to do with creationist science views of evolution.