Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tax Choice - A Strategy For the Occupy Movement

In my last post I considered how this discussion...fallibilism vs fairness...resulted in my banishment from the Bleeding Heart Libertarian website.  Is there any way that I could have known that my comment would have resulted in my banishment?  Nope.  I thought that my comment would help reveal the true complexity of the problem.  So at the time it seemed like a decent enough strategy.  That's the thing...strategies and fallibilism go hand in hand.

Yesterday I had the good fortune to watch the Occupy Movement Strategy Forum on C-Span.  I was watching another program on C-Span but when the Occupy program started I completely lost interest.  So I went into my office to work but didn't turn the TV off.  Some time later, while taking a bit of a mental break from work, my ears perked up when I heard a lady on the TV say...
Each of us has a finite number of resources.  So where are you going to put your resources?  Where are you going to put your time and your money?  Are you going to put it into trying to elect somebody into this current system that's broken?  Or are you going to put that into building something?
The opportunity cost concept!?  That's one of my favorite concepts!  So I sprinted into the TV room and was really surprised to discover that the Occupy program was still on.  What a strange world.  One day I'm banned from a libertarian website for arguing that resources should be efficiently allocated and then the next day I hear a leader of the Occupy Wall Street Movement making the same argument!  What's going on here?

With great interest I sat down and watched the rest of the program.  The forum, which was organized by the The San Francisco 99 Percent Coalition, included these four leaders on the panel...
It was really kind of surprising just how much I agreed with Flowers.  The strangeness didn't end there.  A lady in the audience had this to say (not an exact quote)...
There's a 1% who is controlling us.  We need justice.  It reminds me of the situation in India when the British were in control.  How did the Indians do it?  How did they get rid of the British?  They did it through Gandhi and his Salt March.  You're all familiar with his Salt March?  He found the one thing in India that they all had in common.  They all had to pay a tax on salt.  We are told to go out and organize...but around what?  We need something to organize around.  We need to find that one thing and boycott it to prove our strength...because we are the 99%.    
The Salt March was an example of tax resistance and tax resistance is one of the primary objectives of tax choice.  Then another lady in the audience offered this advice (not an exact quote)...
The first step in taking our power back is taking our money out of all the commercial banks and moving it into credit unions or community banks.  Corporations didn't get big on their own...they got big because we pay them.  So change your phone company...put your money where your heart is.
She literally said, "put your money where your heart is".  Talk about confirmation bias!  In the discussion that resulted in my banishment from the Bleeding Heart Libertarian website...fallibilism vs fairness...I twice made the argument that taxpayers should be allowed to put their taxes where their hearts are.

So what's going on here?  Why are proponents of the Occupy Movement using my arguments?  Or...am I using their arguments?  Maybe this entire time I've unknowingly been a proponent of the Occupy Movement?  Was I really occupying the Bleeding Heart Libertarian website??  When Matt Zwolinski banished me from his virtual space...maybe it was kind of like how police evict occupiers from actual spaces?  Heh...too weird.

If I really have been a proponent of the Occupy Movement this entire time though...then why did the liberal Chris Bertram want to evict me from the Crooked Timber Liberal website?  Why was the liberal John Holbo so resistant to my message?  Here's a point that he made when we discussed whether people should be allowed to sell their votes....
So your counter-argument is really a counter-premise, like so: wealthy people are, in virtue of their wealth, inherently more deserving of wielding political power. Period. End of story. That’s fine, insofar as that makes clear where the rest of us get off the bus: namely, with this first step.
Here was my reply...
If you don't want to disproportionately empower the rich...then you can't just get off the bus.  That's not where this story ends.  You need to stay on the bus long enough to understand where your money is going and how it is being used.  Like I said....that is the beauty of your pseudo-proposal.  It doesn't allow you to dissociate yourself from the indirect consequences of your consumption decisions.
Tax choice is all about ethical consumerism.  You can't give corporations the middle finger with one hand and then give them your money with the other hand.  

Here are a few statistics that the moderator of the Occupy Movement Strategy forum, Rose Aguilar, shared....

1. It costs $38,500 to purchase one ticket to attend a fundraising dinner for Obama
2. The total cost of the election is estimated to be between $6 and $7 billion dollars
3. There are 7.5 million women living on less than $6,000 per year   

So why not just boycott the elections?  Gallagher was concerned that if liberals boycott the elections or vote for the Justice Party then Republicans would win the elections.  But what if all the libertarians agreed to vote for Ron Paul?  What if we all just agree to vote for Vermin Supreme?

What's interesting is just how many of Ron Paul's supporters are voluntaryists.  It seems like the voluntaryists are trying to take power away from the government while Flowers is trying to take power away from the corporations.  But according to Flowers, the corporations control the government.  

If you watch this youtube video of the agorist John Bush....you'll get the sense that there is a huge ideological divide between his views and Flowers' views.  Bush firmly believes that taxes are theft while Flowers firmly believes that the involuntary redistribution of wealth is justified.  But around 20 minutes into Bush's video he starts offering practical suggestions that seem to have considerable overlap with Flowers' practical suggestions...

Here are some of the practical suggestions of Flowers...
  • cooperative businesses
  • cooperative banks
  • decentralized/green energy
Here are some of the practical suggestions of Bush...
  • cooperative schools
  • competing defense agencies
  • competing justice agencies
Here are some of the practical suggestions that they both suggest...?
  • sustainable food networks
  • competing currencies 
  • shifting power to the people
  • "resisting the world that we don't want to live in and creating the world that we do want to live in" - Flowers 
  • "educate yourself on how non-violent movement effect change" - Flowers
  • ???
There are plenty of technical terms to describe what John Bush is suggesting...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agorism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntaryism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counter-economics

But what is the technical term to describe what Flowers is suggesting?  It's not just ethical consumerism... maybe it's more along the lines of ethical producerism?  What's so extremely fascinating is that she doesn't seem to advocate any practical suggestion that any libertarian would have any reason to oppose.  None of her practical suggestions require any legislation to implement!  Not only that...but she's basically advocating greater competition.  How cool is that?  So not only is Flowers' strategy completely immune to even the best libertarian critiques of the Occupy Wall Street Movement...but it's also something that libertarians should embrace and promote.

In my post on Libertarianism and the Free-rider problem I mentioned that I'd really enjoy watching Cait Lamberton and Jeffrey Miron sit down and discuss reasonable compromises.  In this post I'm going to say that I'd really enjoy watching Margaret Flowers and John Bush sit down and discuss a mutually beneficial strategy.


Here are my notes/transcript from the forum...

9:45 - David Solnit - criticized the bank bail out...should have bailed out homeowners or the education system or...

14:00 - Aguilar - militarization of police forces, the lack of regulation on imported food.  we need something new...the problem is money and politics

16:00 - Aguilar - tickets to Obama's fundraiser $38,500 / ticket... this election to cost between $6 and $7 billion dollars...7.5 million women live on less than $6,000/year

20:50 - Rocky - it's not just about electing the right people

23:50 - Rocky - people who make their money passively, sitting back

25:20 - Flowers - income inequality, other nations would be in violent revolution by now...people can't afford healthcare, college education...the real issues...the foreclosures, the lack of jobs...we can't look to leaders to solve our problems for us.  we don't have time to elect the right person...we need to empower ourselves.  leaderless vs leaderful

28:00 - Flowers - the opposition has had a long term strategy...corporatization of education, the media, the courts...think tanks like CATO...

28:15 - Flowers - there are solutions to every crisis we face in this country.  But those solutions are being ignored in congress because they are not there to look at the evidence or to act on behalf of the public interest. They are there to reflect the interests of their corporate funders.  So we need to shift the power, it needs to be intentional and strategic,

28:50 - Flowers - need to draw the nine pillars into the movement...the police force, the military, the civil servants, the religious institutions, NGOs, the media, business, workers and youth.  need to create a system to replace the current one...a more participatory democracy through the democratizing of various institutions

30:00 - Gallagher - it's necessary to ensure that the Republicans do not win.  it's not worth it to say..."a plague on both your houses".

31:25 - Gallagher - Right now we should have somebody running in the democratic primaries doing what Ron Paul's people are doing

31:55 - Gallagher - Foreign policy crimes of the current administration...6 countries have been bombed under the watch current administration Iraq, Afghanistan...

33:35 - Gallagher - unions...neither parties are anything close to what the people in this room would like...it's not the same thing as saying there is no difference between the two parties

34:40 - Gallagher - in Germany...Green Party...if you get 5% of the vote then you get a coalition inside the government...it's not the same thing with our system

42:00 - Rocky - we need a new party to send a loud message...the  two parties are in collusion to create a government for the wealthy.  don't just change the players...change the game.  principles.  critique of Obama...his abuse of power...incarceration with no trial.  we can't settle for the lesser of two evils.  we can't settle for the same game

44:00 - Flowers - that's the system that we have right now.  leadership does what it needs to do to twist arms, bribe, withhold chairmanship positions, whatever they have to do to get members of congress to do what they want them to do.  so it's not about who we elect...it's about changing that system.  so go ahead and vote but let's build a movement that changes that system first.  and how do we do that?  a key part of that is democratizing the economy...

46:00 - Flowers - two political parties serve the one percent...they divide and conquer us.  need to create alternative systems...a democratized economy in this country.  the year of the cooperative.  employee owned businesses.  democratized business.  the growth of local currencies.  efforts to create public banks...more people joining credit unions.  these put more control and benefit into the hands of the 99%.  this is how we undermine the corporate power.  sustainable food networks...decentralizing our energy production.  we don't need legislation to do these things.

48:35 - Flowers -  each of us has a finite number of resources.  so where are you going to put your resources?  where are you going to put your time and your money?  are you going to put it into trying to elect somebody into this current system that's broken?  or are you going to put that into building something?

49:20 - Flowers -  regarding occupying spaces...at a certain point...the resources that you're putting into maintaining that public space take away from the next steps which are doing the outreach into the communities and building, educating and growing this movement.  we need to use our resources to build...and not just maintain.

50:35 -  Gallagher - fusion voting...a significant difference between Obama and Santorum.  Ralph Nadar helped elect George Bush

53:15 -  Welsh  - what happened to labor's friend in the white house?  Bipartisan attack on the working class.

54:20 - Rocky - concern with environmental issues...climate change.  Attack on Obama...corrupting influence of money.  It's about all the people in power.

57:30 - Gallagher - you use a vehicle for what it can deliver for your interests

58:40 - Flowers - have to be independent of political parties...shift power to the people.  We don't have a lot of time.  Collective strength and collective wisdom.

1:01:01 -  Welsh  - socialism...advocates a more radical approach

1:01:02 - Flowers - resisting the world that we don't want to live in and creating the world that we do want to live in

1:01:08 - Flowers - don't cut social programs...or else.  educate yourself on how non-violent movement effect change.  nine pillars.  corporate pressure on civil servants.

1:17:30 - Flowers - we live in a mirage democracy.  we have two corporate candidates that are chosen for us and we don't really have any choice right now.  that's the reason why Rocky can't win this year

1:20:30 -  Attendee  - occupy government, replace congress movement.  replace corrupt politicians.

1:25:50 - Attendee - There's a 1% who is controlling us.  We need justice.  It reminds me of the situation in India when the British were in control.  How did the Indians do it?  How did they get rid of the British?  They did it through Gandhi and his Salt March.  You're all familiar with his Salt March?  He found the one thing in India that they all had in common.  They all had to pay a tax on salt.  We are told to go out and organize...but around what?  We need something to organize around.  We need to find that one thing and boycott it to prove our strength...because we are the 99%.

1:31:40 - Welsh  - capitalism is the root of our problems

1:35:00 - Attendee - freedom socialist party

1:36:00 - Attendee - the first step in taking our power back is taking your money out of all the commercial banks and moving it into credit unions or community banks...corporations didn't get big on their own...they got big because we pay them...so change your phone company...and put your money where your heart is.

1:46:00 -  Gallagher - stands that we make that might be satisfying morally or philosophically might not be effective politically

1:53:30 - Flowers - I don't think we're at the stage where we're going to see a real policy change until we build the movement to make it happen.  Let's create a green energy economy, rebuild our infrastructure with public transportation, let's create real jobs instead of giving corporate welfare let's use our public dollars to invest in our own nation.  We have to be aware that during this election season the conversation that's going on amongst the candidates is a false conversation limited by what their corporate funders allow them to say and the real conversation is happening in the occupy movement in our communities  Figure out how you're going to feed each other and how you're going to provide healthcare for each other and what are the needs in your community and how do you create cooperative businesses to start meeting those needs.  That's how we're going to change this country.

2 comments:

  1. Chris Bertram, who is a liberal, and Matt Zwolinski, who is a libertarian, both saw my comments as trash. That's why they saw value in eliminating my perspective from their websites.

    And they were not wrong.

    ReplyDelete