Thursday, July 28, 2005

Inheritance Taxes: Not the greatest but preferable to Maoism

Though the American yahoo typically views taxation as part of some communist plot, arguments in favor of estate taxes and inheritance taxes are not far from the premises of the American revolution. Stripping away the grammar school myths and yankee nationalist gloss, the intelligent observer may perceive that the Founding Fathers were quite similiar, at least in motivations, to the "red republican" Jacobins agitating in the Paris streets: both collectively rejected hereditary aristocracy and the absurd inequalities of wealth that characterized pre-Revolutionary France and Britain. Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting America in the early 19th century, asserted "The American experiment presupposes a rejection of inherited privilege." The exorbitant wealth of a Bill Gates or Paris Hilton or other billionaires is in a very real sense a return to the aristocratic privilege and dynasties which the Founders overthrew.

That is not to say that the moderately successful small-town businessman should not be able to hand down a large portion of his estate to his child or to whomever he deems fit. But the children of Bill Gates or Conrad Hilton are not simply obtaining some college funds and a nice car—they are obtaining, through no efforts of their own, a financial or corporate empire. (ironically, Bill Gates himself has argued in favor of the estate tax). Those economists and citizens who argue in favor of progressive estate taxes (and against aristocratic or corporate dynasties) are therefore following the Jeffersonian tradition, more or less, which is opposed to the finance and property schemes which led to the gross disparities of wealth and property of pre-Revolutionary Europe. The American yahoo might unthinkingly refer to Jeffersonian egalitarianism as “socialism,” but more correctly would be to refer to the Paris Hiltons of the world as decadent, idle aristocrats, if not seditionists.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Operation Mindf*ck: Jack Parsons, L. Ron Hubbard and Uncle Al Crowley

This shit is just too weird to even believe. Cal Tech and JPL, founding member Aleister Crowley? And Tommy Cruise and Scientology, brought to you by black magician L Ron Hubbard.

L Ron the Magus

Monday, July 04, 2005

Jefferson Day Rant: Enthusiasm

Following some blog-duels with various seminarians and preachers-in-training, I have noted that there is an issue which many religious people overlook, which the English writers formerly referred to as Enthusiasm. If religious faith is purely a matter of personal conscience and subjective belief, what is to prevent a Manson or Koresh (someone like Locke would have termed them Enthusiasts of the most virulent type) from thinking that his own "visions"--which may or may not be madness--are not the Word of Gott on high? Madison optimistically asserted that "the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man," yet if one person's religion--say Koresh's-- involves inflicting his own views and irrationalism on other non-believers or gentiles or "liberals", and endangering their health if not actually killing them in accord with some subjective madness, then perhaps his religious rights should be limited (and most would agree it would have been good had Koresh's religious rights been curtailed and his church been closed early on).

When some biblethumping conservative begins discussing the Book of Revelation and assuming that it is his duty to help bring it about (since his "God" told him to) anyone who values the secular principles of the Constitution has reason to be concerned, just as we might be concerned if muslims were to become more powerful in US politics and began to try to institute some Koranic laws as public policy, or if new-age types were to try to attempt to institute some pagan holidays. There are many sound secular reasons--reasons based on logical and scientific principles, not dogma--to limit or at least question religious freedoms and institutions, as Madison's more skeptical colleague Jefferson well realized.
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