Archive for October 2017

Minority Report   Leave a comment

Image result for image of hl mencken

“If you were against the New Deal and its wholesale buying of pauper votes, then you were against Christian charity.  If you were against the gross injustices and dishonesties of the Wagner Labor Act, then you were against labor.  If you were against packing the Supreme Court, then you were in favor of letting Wall Street do it.  If you are against using Dr. Quack’s cancer salve, then you are in favor of letting Uncle Julius die.  If you are against Holy Church, or Christian Science, then you are against god.  It is an old, old argument.” H.L. Mencken “Minority Report”


Open Book Blog Hop – 30th October   Leave a comment

Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

This week the topic is:

Inspiration. Where do you get your inspiration for writing? When you’re running low on ideas or creative flow, how do you get your inspiration back?

I must admit that since undergoing extensive radiotherapy treatment earlier this year, the muse/mojo has been somewhat elusive, and I’ve been suffering from ‘radiation brain’.  I’ve been out walking a lot as that used to help, but somehow it’s not as effective as it used to be.

However, it’s 5 months on now, and I need to get back in the swing of writing.  I began visiting the website, and have found many ideas there.  Also I started up a monthly ‘Share Your Short Story’ competition on my blog earlier this month.  It makes me write at least one short story a month, and I get to pick my favourite out of all your entries at the end of…

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Posted October 30, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Whence Did My Muse Wander?   4 comments

Inspiration. Where do you get your inspiration for writing? When you’re running low on ideas or creative flow, how do you get your inspiration back?


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My inspiration comes from life and the news and, sometimes other authors. It depends on the genre and my mood at the time.

Image result for image of literary inspirationFor example, Transformation Project is largely inspired by the news. It’s sort of bleak out there in divided American these days, which just begs for someone to write an apocalyptic about people overcoming the mess created by the demon spawn of division and tyranny. Rather than fuss overmuch about the Resistance, the Revolutionary Communist Party of America and Black Lives Matters planning a series of “color revolution-like” demonstrations around the US during the month of November, I choose to write about Kansas farmers hiding corn from off-the-lease USDA agents who mean to take what these farmers grew and give it to people in the cities. Which is worst – reality or fiction? The reader gets to decide, I guess.

My fantasy series is inspired, really, by my admiration for a whole lot of other fantasy writers and a love of medieval and Celtic history and culture.  Maybe there’s a desire to get away from our overly-technological society, to slow things down to the pace of a horse. You can dead with issues in a fantasy setting that would just plain sound strange in a contemporary setting. Jazz in Transformation Project can certainly be equal to a man when she has a gun, but Ryanna in Daermad Cycle, as a female half-elf is nearly as strong as a human man. She can sword-fight a male and, with superior skill, best him. So questions about strength and equality can be tweaked because of that differing dynamic.

Other stories are inspired by life events. Yet-to-be published “What If Wasn’t” is largely drawn from the experiences of a friend of ours who spent time in prison and then tried to make a normal life for himself when he got out. My book is not his story — that would be an invasion of his privacy — but his stories are threaded throughout the novel.  A YA I’m working on started from a story someone else told me that I changed and developed into something that is quite different from the original true story. I’m also working on another story that is based on a shooting here in Alaska, but my story is not about that particular shooting. I’ve fictionalized it.

Related imageSo, what do I do when “my muse” stops talking to me? That rarely happens because I shift around from project to project to keep myself from getting bored. BUT … when I find myself staring at a blank screen with nothing coming to mind and that lasts more than a day, I usually take a small break. I go hiking in the woods … design and construct a quilt … read a bunch of books. I once binge-watched three seasons of Vampire Dairies … and, no, I’m not a fan and I don’t write supernatural fiction, but apparently that month of wasted time was what was needed to get my inspiration back.

My goal is to distract myself, but only temporarily. While I’m distracting myself, some world leader says or does something that gets my interest. A friend forwards me an article on economics, history or political anarchy. I read a book on medieval marriage laws. Maybe I hike by a wonderful lake that just insists upon being described. I overhear a conversation in the coffee shoppe that just begs to be recorded. I hear a song or read a poem that just speaks to something deep in my soul.

Some time in that process of letting my mind rest for a few days or weeks, the voices return and offer to tell me more of their stories. Inspiration returns. They weren’t gone. They were just taking a siesta and are now ready to give me something to write once more.


Give & Go   Leave a comment

Paul’s Plans to Visit

Some people who just skip this last chapter of 1 Corinthians because it really isn’t very theological, but I find Paul imparted a lot of wisdom in his farewells. And, I’m systematic, so I prefer not to leave things out, which is what some of us would prefer to do with the first subject in Chapter 16.

With regard to the collection for the saintsplease follow the directions that I gave to the churches of Galatia: On the first day of the weekeach of you should set aside some income and save it to the extent that God has blessed you, so that a collection will not have to be made when I come. Thenwhen I arriveI will send those whom you approve with letters of explanation to carry your gift to JerusalemAnd if it seems advisable that I should go alsothey will go with me. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Give to the Lord’s Work

Related imagePaul had a practical philosophy of giving to the church, providing six guidelines as to how we should give. Before we look at these biblical guidelines, you must accept the Bible’s premise that you and I don’t own anything. Our home, cars, possessions, and money all belong to the Lord. We are merely stewards of the resources that God has entrusted to us. If you accept this premise, you probably won’t object to what I’m going to teach here.

Guideline #1:

Biblical giving is not optional but mandatory. The word translated “direction” is a strong word that is frequently translated “command” or “order.” Paul wrote with apostolic authority, calling for the church in Corinth to do what he had already directed the Galatian churches to do. Generous financial giving is one of the key characteristics of a mature Christian. This ties in rather nicely with the previous verse (15:58), where Paul commands the Corinthians to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” It’s like he’s saying, “Speaking of giving yourselves fully, let’s talk about financial giving.”

Guideline #2:

Biblical giving starts with meeting the basic needs of believers. 

Typically, when a pastor preaches a message on money, it’s in order to generate pledges for the annual budget, buy land, or build a new building. Such matters concern most congregations at some point in their church history. But that is not where biblical giving begins. It begins with a heart that cares about the basic needs of other Christians for food, shelter, and clothing. That’s what the collection here in 1 Corinthians 16 is all about—sending a gift to Jerusalem so the believers there can survive. Their financial plight was due to famine, persecution, and economic sanctions against them, making it difficult for new converts to hold anything but the most menial jobs.

The above guideline indicates that we who are wealthy (every American, from a world perspective) have an obligation to help poverty-stricken believers as well as the persecuted church in foreign lands. Such support should never be treated as optional. Instead, the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ should be an essential part of our financial giving. This Christmas, what will you give to brothers and sisters in Christ who are less fortunate? When you think about giving to others, think about all God has given you. This ought to compel you to give generously to those who are less fortunate.

Guideline #3:

Biblical giving is the believer’s #1 financial priority. 

Many Christians don’t give at all, and often those who do give do so sporadically. They might give two months in a row, skip three months, give one, and skip two more. Some people don’t give when they are on vacation, sick at home, or snowed in. Some don’t give if they miss the offering plate. Imagine standing before the Lord and explaining why you disobeyed His command to give. Do you think He’d be impressed if you explained that you just kept forgetting to write the check? We don’t think that way about anything else. If our mortgage comes due when we’re on vacation, we don’t not pay it because we’ll lose our house. The wise among us pay our house note before we go on our vacation. Why don’t we take what God is owed as seriously?

Today, you may need to reevaluate your financial giving. God’s Word is clear from cover-to-cover, we are to give to the Lord first, not last. This implies that giving to the Lord’s work should take place before other obligations are met. Every once in a while I hear someone say, “Well, I had to take a pass on giving for a couple of months because we had some unexpected medical expenses, house expenses, etc.” I don’t think Paul would buy that. If we would give the first part of our paycheck, then maybe we wouldn’t get into those tight spots in the first place. That’s the point of the Old Testament prophet, Haggai, who told the poverty-stricken Israelites that God was putting holes in their pockets because their financial priorities were amiss. Giving should come before bill paying, before pursuing hobbies, before eating out, even before repaying debt. And, if you consistently cannot afford to give God’s tithe, then you seriously need to look at your debts and income. People who pay off credit cards and don’t use debt often have a lot more money to give.

Guideline #4:

Biblical giving is every believer’s responsibility.

Ever get stuck by a word’s base meaning? Writer, right? Responsiblity = your ability to respond. This topic is about your response to God.

It’s an individual response. “Each one of you is to put aside and save ….” Notice that Paul didn’t excuse the poor, the slaves, the pastors, or the large family with three kids in college. Giving is every believer’s privilege and responsibility. We are all to be involved in giving regularly, whether we have a lot of money or we’re impoverished, whether we’re children or the most senior adult.

Unfortunately, many of us have erroneously assumed that if we don’t have a lot of money or are in debt, we don’t have to give. Nothing could be further from the truth! The greatest examples in Scripture of sacrificial giving come from those who are in the midst of poverty and persecution. God wants and expects us to give in spite of our circumstances or lack of wealth. The Lord will honor even a meager attempt to prioritize giving.

Guideline #5:

Biblical giving should be proportionate. 

Paul wrote a believer’s giving should be “save it to the extent that God has blessed you.” In other words, the more we are blessed, the more we should give. There are two ways one can approach this matter. If you are giving a set percentage of your income, let’s say 10%, as your income rises your giving will automatically rise proportionately. But a more generous approach to proportionate giving is to increase the percentage of your giving as your income increases. In the case of a substantial raise, you will still be left with more than you had before the promotion. The issue is: where does your heart lie?

The New Testament does not require flat 10% giving. The tithe was an income tax system in the Old Testament. There were three tithes—two tithes per year for two years and on the third year an additional tithe of 10%, making it 30% for that year. The tithes for the third year were for the poor. It worked out to 231/3 % of income over a three-year period. Yeah, most people in America could not manage that since we already have the government in our pockets for 15-40% of our incomes. Then, additionally, we are supposed to give “offerings.” Israelites gave both tithes and offerings. All this was done for the national entity of Israel. A national entity needs an income tax system, so that was the purpose of the tithe. The New Testament does not command tithes for the church. The idea for the church is an offering of proportional giving or as God has blessed the believer financially. There is no percentage in this system of giving.

My personal conviction is 10% of one’s income is a good guideline – a target to hit – for most people. Some people who are poor or deeply in debt may need to build up gradually  to 10% as they retire debt or their income increases. That’s fine. Giving is ultimately a matter between the individual believer and God. Don’t assume you’re violating God’s command if you truly don’t have 10% to give, but don’t think you’re doing just fine if you’re giving 10% when you’re really wealthy. I would suggest that the vast majority of American Christians, if we avoided credit card debt and bought houses and cars we can actually afford, can and should give more than 10% of our income to the Lord. Sadly though, many Christians are more concerned with their standard of living than their standard of giving. For many of us, prosperity has become a greater test of character than poverty.

When it comes to giving, ask two questions:

  • How has God prospered you?
  • To what degree do you want to express your gratitude to Him for all that He has given you?

Guideline #6:

Biblical giving should not be motivated by pressure. 

Looking again at 16:2 we see that the apostle was asking that the collection be made each week so that there didn’t have to be a fund drive when he arrived. He was in Ephesus as he wrote this letter, and he had plans to travel to visit Corinth in the future. He knew that his credibility and charisma were such that he could generate a huge offering with his personal presence, but he didn’t want them to give under that kind of pressure.

Pressure, of course, works. Countless churches and ministries have funded vast building projects through high-pressure fund-raising efforts. Just because it works, doesn’t mean it’s right and Paul seems to have understood that.

In addition to the above six guidelines, there is a concluding principle that has more to do with how offerings are handled than with how they are given.

Biblical givers have a right to expect integrity and accountability from those they give to. 

Verses 3-4 explain that it is the responsibility of every congregation to entrust its funds into the hands of trustworthy members. Paul didn’t say, “Give your money to me and I will handle it for you.” Instead he urged the church to choose their own representatives to disburse the gifts. Obviously, integrity matters. Churches and Christian charities should have the highest level of financial accountability observable in society.

I challenge you to either continue or begin giving generously and cheerfully. Not only does gracious giving please the Lord, but there are also legitimate personal blessings involved.

But I will come to you after I have gone through Macedonia – for I will be going through Macedonia  and perhaps I will stay with youor even spend the winterso that you can send me on my journeywherever I go. For I do not want to see you now in passingsince I hope to spend some time with youif the Lord allows. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, because a door of great opportunity stands wide open for me, but there are many opponents.

Now if Timothy comessee that he has nothing to fear among youfor he is doing the Lord’s workas I am too. So thenlet no one treat him with contemptBut send him on his way in peace so that he may come to meFor I am expecting him with the brothers.

With regard to our brother Apollos: I strongly encouraged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was simply not his intention to come now. He will come when he has the opportunity. 1 Corinthians 16:5-12

Go to the Lord’s People

Image result for image of christian missionariesThese verses explain how Paul and his ministry partners were willing to go to minister to believers and unbelievers alike. There are at least five observations worth making from these eight verses. First, Paul had plans and goals to share the gospel with unbelievers and build up the churches. He had a schedule mapped out. He didn’t just trust God and sit on his hands. He took initiative and moved forward with holy ambition.

Do you have a plan to share Christ and build up His body? If not, why not? Today, make a promise to yourself and God to share the gospel, write down the names of three unbelievers and three believers, and develop a plan to share Christ with those individuals.

Second, Paul submitted his plans and goals to Christ. Words and phrases like “perhaps,” “wherever I may go,” and “I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits” reveal Paul’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Although he had plans and goals that he wanted to accomplish, he was always striving to make sure that he was doing what God wanted him to do.

Are you willing to relocate and change jobs if God calls you to? Would you be willing to take on a new ministry? God longs for willing hearts.

Third, God eventually opens a door of ministry for faithful believers. Admittedly, sometimes it takes many years but God has a way of blessing our meager efforts. Paul wrote “for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” This “open door” in Ephesus brought great evangelistic fruit. However, with the fruit there were many adversaries. This is to be expected. Where there is light there are bugs. When God pours out His blessing, Satan sends adversaries to destroy God’s work. Those involved in ministry of any sort should expect opposition. It is important to recognize “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:13).

Fourth, Paul valued ministry partners. In this section, he spent considerable ink talking about Timothy and Apollos. In the passage that follows he will mention five more valuable coworkers. Paul recognized how important other ministry leaders were to his ministry and to God’s kingdom. God uses teammates (brothers and sisters) to help us to accomplish His purposes for our lives. More importantly, He uses the purposes He works in us to accomplish His kingdom agenda in the world. Have you expressed gratitude to God for all that He has accomplished in your life? Have you said “thank you” to your Christian teammates?

Going requires more of us than giving and that should be acknowledged. It’s hard with jobs and children and life to pick up and go to Africa or South America – but let’s be honest, the early Christians did much of their ministering right where they were – in the marketplace, mending tents, as they interacted with the people around them. Do you do ministry at work, the grocery store, on your Facebook page? Are you willing to?

We’re part of God’s work team if we’re willing to let Him guide us in the plans He has designed for us. Today, will you commit yourself to fulfilling God’s plans for your life? Will you submit yourself to Him in the areas of giving and going?

Are You Sexually Harassing Me?   2 comments

Hi, this is Brad.

Although Lela has a lot to say about the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal, I asked to go first. Yeah, here I am – a man commenting on sexual harassment. Go on, throw vegetables. Lela will make soup!

Lela says I should start with a disclaimer.

I think men like Harvey Weinstein are disgusting jerks who deserve what they get. There’s no excuse for abusing a woman or requiring her to give up sex for a job. That’s just totally degrading and shouldn’t be accepted by anyone.

Image result for image of sexual harassment female to maleNow that you’re done cheering that at least one man in the world “gets” it, let me burst your bubble. I think it goes both ways and it’s not just a man-woman thing.

When I think about my high school sexual encounters, I was probably a sexual harasser by today’s standards. I “pestered” girls to date me. It didn’t usually take a lot of “pestering”, but I didn’t usually take “go away” as the only answer. I’d try back a few times. That worked with a girl I dated for over a year and it certainly worked with my wife. I “bothered” Lela at her job … I was a customer and she was staff. I made “unwanted” comments and gave her compliments. At first, I was just an annoying and noncompliant (well, my employer was noncompliant, I just was there to receive the note) guest of the campground where she worked, but later she accepted my compliments and my request for a date and the rest is history.

When I was a young man catting around, it was assumed that if a girl willingly got into bed with you without any clothes on and didn’t say “No, stop!” that it was consensual sex. According to our 20-something daughter, you now have to ask permission at every step of the process. Wow! Sex as a contractural relationship? Well, that sucked all the fun out of it!

I hear there’s a list of alleged sexual abusers in the media circulating. I’m sure there are men on that list who deserve to be there. However, as a heterosexual white male, it disturbs me that members of my gender are presumed guilty until proven innocent and that most of the nation doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. On at least one talk show, I have seen concerns of false accusations brushed aside with “well, women are being protected, so it doesn’t matter whether a few reputations or professional lives are destroyed in the process. Seriously, if you’re the one who hasn’t done anything wrong and your career is destroyed by false accusations – it matters … to you, to your spouse, to your kids, and to your creditors and business partners.

Anyone familiar with comedian Christopher Titus?

He was the first physically fit white male I ever heard admit publicly that he had been abused by a woman. This is a man whose psychotic mother credibly threatened to kill his father on numerous occasions and did eventually kill one of her husbands. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he hooked up with and eventually moved in with a girlfriend who regularly hit him. When he finally had had enough and called the cops, they arrested him rather than her.

I appreciated his social bravery because I dated a girl who, a few weeks into our relationship, got drunk and tried to crack my head open with a bottle. I’d been raised not to hit women. I didn’t know what to do to make her stop. Fortunately, the neighbor lady came over to investigate the noise and I made my escape. I’m sure she thought I was the one abusing my date, not the other way around. The girlfriend called me the next day, all apologetic and promising never to do it again. We continued to date for a little while after that until I heard her laughing with her girlfriends about how scared I’d been when she swung it at me. And, yeah, I know how screwed up that is.

Lela and I have since encountered several men who quietly admit to having been abused by women – more often than not emotionally, but also sexually and physically. Since we men almost never admit to be terrorized by someone smaller than us, you can bet our few encounters translates into thousands, maybe millions, of men who have been victims of domestic violence, but are too embarrassed to talk about it.

But let’s talk about sexual harassment. When I was in school, girls weren’t usually the initiators in relationships, but by the time our kids were in high school, they were. Our daughter is a knockout … that’s not just Dad saying it. The dozens of boys I had to beat back from the car whenever I picked her up at school said it. A bold dancer who is now a semi-professional musician, I’ve never met a girl who better turned aside sexual harassment while hardly breaking her stride. She is pretty. She doesn’t need what most guys are offering. And, she’s known that since junior high. I’m sure there are plenty of other girls who feel harassed and scared, but that was never a problem for Bri in school, though she tells me that out on the road, she has had more issues with that.

On the other hand, our son would come home wondering why girls insisted upon embarrassing him by making comments about his (toned) body, his hair, his walk and his general sexiness. He didn’t kiss his first girl until middle of sophomore year, not because they weren’t throwing themselves at him, but because he was shy. He was surprised one swim team meet when a girl on an opposing team asked him to go have sex with her and when he turned her down, she spread a vicious rumor that he was gay. He isn’t. He just thought he should respect girls enough not to have sex with them standing up in a bathroom stall in the boys locker room.

But, let’s talk about the sexual harassment I have personally encountered. I’m going to skip the times I think they were coming onto me because I’m so hot and just go with the times I know they were crossing a line.

There’s the  woman in a professional course who decided to pull up her t-shirt, barring both breasts so that she could nurse her baby. Yeah, you have a right to nurse your baby (I think all mothers should), but there are ways to do it that don’t sexually harass the men in the room. I’m pretty sure, if I unzipped my pants and “let it all hang out” you’d scream sexual assault (and that is a criminal offense that will see you on a sex offender registry), so why is it different when you do it? Oh, that’s right. Men are disgusting pigs for being turned on by sight, but women aren’t held to the same standard.

When I was 20, I was broke – between decent jobs, working for minimum wage at a bakery. I rented a room from this guy I met on the bus. I didn’t know him other than to have a couple of conversations with him as we rode. Seemed like a nice guy. The room was affordable and in a decent building. It beat the alternative to living under a bridge. Two days after I signed the lease, I discovered he was gay. No big deal. I didn’t care. He was dating someone and it didn’t seem to matter … until, about three months into the lease, he didn’t have a gay guy to hook up with and he started harassing me. The next three months were hell. I had no desire to have gay sex. I couldn’t afford to move out. He would not leave me alone even when I told him repeatedly that I wasn’t interested. It even came to blows one night when he and a “friend” decided to “teach me what I’d been missing”. They came into my room while I was sleeping and tried for force the issue. I had to fight back and I was a strong construction worker while they were wimpy office workers, so I was able to make them stop. Two days later, my father asked me to come to Alaska with him and I jumped at the chance just so I could break my lease and run somewhere “Mike” couldn’t follow me. He found me on Facebook a few years ago and I literally felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I think I know how women feel who have run from a stalker and he finds them on social media years later.

Like the “women who have terrorized men”  scenario, I suspect this happens to a lot more straight people than they’re willing to admit.

So, here’s the thing – I think sexual harassment is wrong no matter who is doing it to whom, but I also think we can’t be so mechanical about the definition. If we want to insist that a man can’t compliment a woman on her appearance at work, can’t ask a coworker out, ask more than once, etc., then we should insist that women and homosexuals do the same. What’s sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose and the turducten, too. But if we’re planning that level of scrutiny of sexual attraction, we might want to consider the problems we’re causing with it. I met Lela at her place of work. In fact, every girlfriend I ever had, I met at work (school is work for teenagers). Most people met their spouses at work. Few Americans go to church anymore, so that’s out. That leaves meeting women to date … where? The bars? Laundromats? Seriously, where do we meet people we’re attracted to where we can actually spend time getting to know one another? Statistics say most of us do it at work, but if that’s not allowed … what substitute do you propose?


A Trumpian Week   Leave a comment

Image result for image of trumpRegular readers of this blog know that I didn’t vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and that I think politics are not among the solutions to our problems. I try to dish up a steady fare of political philosophy here — to give people an understanding of what’s going on and where we ought to be headed rather than a Republican or Democratic line of bull. I’m a non-partisan, conservative-leaning, libertarian. When I say “conservative”, it doesn’t mean I’ve stepped back from the radical notion that liberty is better than tradition. It simply means my default position is that idiots (otherwise known as politicians) shouldn’t strive to make big changes in society or government without a full-throated consultation with the people, who are the ones who will be stuck with the consequences. If the people want to make changes, we should be allowed to do it, using the constitutional procedures. Change should always be driven by us, not by the elites who would be our rulers.

But sometimes it’s interesting to look at politics if only for the horror movie aspect of all of it.

This week was a Trumpian week and I’ve got good things to say about my observations as well as bad things to say about them.

First, Mr. Trump, STOP fighting with the widows and parents of fallen soldiers (I refuse to call them “gold star”; maybe I’ll post about that someday). It is entirely possible that the wife of La David Johnson got your conversation with her wrong. She had the congresswoman there to help her misinterpret what you said and she doesn’t seem like a person who screens what a trusted elite tells her. I get why that’s annoying, but you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any good by having a public feud with her. Maybe if you’d just go after the congresswoman, who SOOO needs to have a verbal ass-kicking, but leave the widow alone. At the risk of sounding partisan here – when you deal with Democrats and make them look stupid, your polls rise. When you pick on military widows, your polls drop. Be sensible, Mr. President.

Second, Mr. Trump, thank you for taking the opioid crisis seriously and compassionately. Last night’s speech spoke of fighting a disease with treatment rather than incarceration. I suspected you would up to this task, given your family background, but I held my breath, concerned that you would declare another “war on drugs” that has proven to be absolutely fruitless for the past 40 years. I am a little concerned about your announcement that you’ve given all branches of the federal government wide leeway to address this issue. The federal government, more often than not, ignores the constitution and runs roughshod over the rights of individuals. As someone who lives in a state where cannabis has been legalized, I don’t want to see people arrested and imprisoned for partaking of a substance that is no more dangerous than alcohol and there is a risk of federal agencies misinterpreting your executive order to do just that, so I’m going to call that one a mixed bag, depending on the federal interpretation.

Third, Mr. Trump, in case you’re unfamiliar with American history — our Founders fought a war against England in order to secede from what they deemed to be a government that did not represent their values or culture. So, today, when I hear you promise Spain your full support against the people of Catalan who desire to free themselves from a government that doesn’t represent the Catalonians’ values or culture, I wince. It’s just plain wrong! We should be the first nation to step forward in support of liberty as opposed to hegemony.

Fourth, Mr. Trump, I don’t know that you are really the cause of the economic rally that has been underway since you took office. I suspect your presence in the White House, addressing things like the much-needed reform of Obamacare and the tax code; junk-science social engineering like climate change; and overly burdensome economic and environmental regulations on businesses has emboldened investors and other drivers of the economy that have been hiding in underground bunkers during the Obama administration. The growth potential was already there, but you having signaled that you won’t try to crush them if they came out of hiding has given them permission to once more risk.

Nothing works quite like success, so even though your poll numbers are really low, I think if you can stop fighting with people perceived to be underdogs and concentrate on freeing the economy to improve while not inciting wars overseas, you’ll do okay in 2020. I probably still won’t vote for you, but I will applaud your success.

Posted October 27, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in politics, Uncategorized

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Income without Work   1 comment

We like to think that universal basic income is a new idea that has never been considered before, but that would be untrue. Henry Hazlitt (Economics in One Lesson) dealt with the concept in 1966 and his arguments against it are still valid 50 years later. I’ve provided some notes and organization to his arguments. You can read the original at this location.  Lela

Income without Work

Henry Hazlett


A group of social reformers, im­patient with the present “rag bag” of measures to combat poverty, propose to wipe it out in a sin­gle swoop. The government would simply guarantee to everybody, re­gardless of whether or not he worked, could work, or was will­ing to work, a minimum income. This guaranteed income would be sufficient for his needs, “enough to enable him to live with dig­nity.”

Image result for image income redistribution from workers to nonworkers by coercionThe reformers estimate that the guaranteed income ought to range somewhere between $3,000 ($22,776.60 today) and $6,000 ($45,553.21 today) a year for a family of four.

This is not merely the proposal of a few starry-eyed private in­dividuals. The National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress, estab­lished by Congress in 1964, brought in a 115-page report to the President (Johnson) on February 4 of this year recommending guaran­teed incomes for all. And in Janu­ary the President’s Council of Economic Advisers indicated ap­proval of “uniformly determined payments to families based only on the amount by which their in­comes fall short of minimum sub­sistence levels.” This plan, they declared, “could be administered on a universal basis for all the poor and would be the most direct approach to reducing poverty.”

The plan is spelled out and ar­gued in detail in a book called The Guaranteed Income, a sym­posium of articles by ten contrib­utors, edited by Robert Theobald, who calls himself a “socio-econo­mist.” Mr. Theobald has contribu­ted three of the articles, including his preface.

Of the following three para­graphs, Mr. Theobald prints the first two entirely in italics:

“This book proposes the estab­lishment of new principles spe­cifically designed to break the link between jobs and income. Imple­mentation of these principles must necessarily be carried out by the government….

“We will need to adopt the con­cept of an absolute constitutional right to an income. This would guarantee to every citizen of the United States, and to every per­son who has resided within the United States for a period of five consecutive years, the right to an income from the federal govern­ment to enable him to live with dignity. No government agency, judicial body, or other organiza­tion whatsoever should have the power to suspend or limit any pay­ments assured by these guaran­tees….

“If the right to these incomes should be withdrawn under any circumstances, government would have the power to deprive the in­dividual not only of the pursuit of happiness, but also of liberty and even, in effect, of life itself. This absolute right to a due-in­come would be essentially a new principle of jurisprudence.” (emphasis Lela)

The contributors to this volume have arrived at these extraordin­ary conclusions not only because they share a number of strange ideas of jurisprudence, of “rights,” of government, and of the true meaning of liberty and tyranny, but because they share a number of major economic mis­conceptions.

Strange ideas about:

  • jurisprudence
  • “rights”
  • government
  • true meaning of liberty and tyranny
  • economic misconceptions

Nearly all of them seem to share the belief, for example, that the growth of automation and “cyber­nation” is eliminating jobs so fast (or soon will be) that there soon just won’t be jobs for even the most industrious. “The continu­ing impact of technical change will make it impossible to provide jobs for all who seek them.” The goal of “jobs for all” is “no longer valid.” And so on.

Ancient Fears of Automation

The fears of permanent unem­ployment as a result of technolog­ical progress are as old as the In­dustrial Revolution in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. They have been constant­ly reiterated in the last thirty-five years and as often completely refuted. (more than 80 years now). It is sufficient to point out here that not only has the average unemployment of slightly less than 5 per cent in the last twenty years not been growing, and that two-thirds of the jobless have usually remained so for periods of not more than ten weeks, but that the total volume of em­ployment in the United States has reached a new high record in near­ly every one of these years.

Even if it were true, as the authors of the guaranteed income proposal contend, that the Ameri­can free enterprise system will soon become so productive that more than anybody really wants can be produced in half the time as now, why would that mean the disappearance of jobs? And how could that justify half the popu­lation’s, say, being forced to work forty hours a week to support the other half in complete idleness? Why couldn’t everybody work only in the mornings? Or half in the mornings and the other half in the afternoons at the same ma­chines? Or why could not some people come in on Mondays, others on Tuesdays, and so on? It is dif­ficult to understand the logic or the sense of fairness of those who contend that as soon as there is less to be done some people must be supported in idleness by all the rest.

No historical evidence that increased productive eliminates jobs, but even if it did, people could work parttime. “It is difficult to understand the logic or … fairness of those who contend that … some people must be supported in idleness by all the rest.

“An Absolute Right”

But that is precisely the conten­tion of the advocates of the guar­anteed annual income. These hand­out incomes are to be given as “an absolute constitutional right,” and not to be withheld “under any circumstances.” (Theobald’s ital­ics.) This means that the recipi­ents are to continue to get this in­come not only if they absolutely re­fuse to seek or take a job, but if they throw the handout money away at the races, or spend it on prostitutes, on whiskey, cigarettes, marijuana, heroin, or what not. They are to be given “sufficient to live in dignity,” and it is appar­ently to be no business of the tax­payers if a recipient chooses none the less to live without dignity, and to devote his guaranteed leisure to gambling, dissipation, drunken­ness, debauchery, dope addiction, or a life of crime. “No government agency, judicial body, or other organization whatsoever should have the power to suspend or limit any payments assured by these guarantees.” This is surely a “new principle of jurisprudence.”

Unrealistic Cost Estimates

How much income do the guar­anteed-income advocates propose to guarantee? They differ regard­ing this, but practically all of them think the government should guarantee at least what they and government officials call the “min­imum maintenance level” or the “poverty-income line.” The Social Security Administration calculat­ed that the 1964 poverty-income line for nonfarm individuals was $1,540 a year. A nonfarm family of four was defined as poor if its money income was below $3,130. The Council of Economic Advisers has calculated that by this stand­ard 34 million out of our 190 mil­lion 1964 population, or 18 per cent, were living in poverty. This is in spite of the $40 billion total spent in welfare payments, of which it estimated that $20 billion (in the fiscal year 1965) went to persons who were, or would other­wise have been, below the poverty-income line.

How much would a guaranteed-income program cost the taxpay­ers? This would depend, of course, on how big an income was being guaranteed. Many of the income-guarantee advocates think that a guarantee merely of the poverty-line income would be totally in­adequate. They appeal to other “minimum” budgets put together by the Social Security Administra­tion or the Bureau of Labor Sta­tistics, some of which run up to nearly $6,000 ($45,553) for a family of four.

One of the contributors to the Theobald symposium makes the following estimates of the cost to the taxpayers of different guar­antees:

  • For a “minimum maintenance” level of $3,000 a year: total cost, $11 billion a year. ($835 Billion a year today)
  • For an “economy” level of $4,000: $23 billion a year. ($1.7 trillion annually)
  • For a “modest-but-adequate” level of $5,000: $38 billion a year. (almost $2.9 trillion annually)

These figures are huge, yet they are clearly an underestimate. For the calculations take it for granted that those who could get govern­ment checks of $3,000 to $5,000 a year, as an absolute guarantee, without conditions, would con­tinue to go on earning just as much as before. But as even one of the contributors to the Theo-bald symposium, William Vogt, re­marks: “Those who believe that men will want to work whether they have to or not seem to have lived sheltered lives.”

Who Would Do the Work?

He goes on to point out, with refreshing realism, how hard it is even today, before any guaran­teed income, to get people to shine shoes, wash cars, cut brush, mow lawns, act as porters at railroad or bus stations, or do any number of other necessary jobs. “Millions of service jobs are unfilled in the United States, and it is obvious that men and women will often prefer to exist on small welfare payments rather than take the jobs…. If this situation exists before the guaranteed income is made available, who is going to take care of services when every­one can live without working—as a right?”

Who is, in fact, going to take the smelly jobs, or any low-paid job, once the guaranteed income program is in effect? Suppose, as a married man with two children, your present income from some nasty and irregular work is $2,500 a year. Comes the income guaran­tee, and you get a check in the mail from the government for $630. This is accompanied by a letter telling you that you are en­titled as a matter of uncondition­al right to the poverty-line income of $3,130, and this $630 is for the difference between that and your earned income of $2,500. You are happy — for just a day. Then it occurs to you that you are a fool to go on working at your nasty job or series of odd jobs for $2,­500 when you can stop work en­tirely and get the full $3,130 from the government.

So the government would, in fact, have to pay out a tremendous sum. In addition, it would create idleness on a huge scale. To pre­dict this result is not to take a cynical view, but merely to rec­ognize realities. The beneficiaries of the guaranteed income would merely be acting sensibly from their own point of view. But the result would be that the fifth of the population now judged to be below the poverty line would stop producing even most of the neces­sary goods and services it is pro­ducing now. The unpleasant jobs would not get done. There would be less total production, or total real income, to be shared by every­body.

The Shifting “Poverty Line”

But so far we have been talking only about the effect of the guar­anteed income on the recipients whose previous incomes have been below the poverty line. What about the other four-fifths of the population, whose incomes have previously been above it? What would be the effect on their incen­tives and actions?

Suppose a married man with two children found at the end of a year that he had earned $3,500? And suppose he found that his neighbor, with the same-sized fam­ily, had simply watched television, hung around a bar, or gone fishing during the year and had got a guaranteed income from the gov­ernment of $3,130? Wouldn’t the worker begin to think that he had been something of a sap to work so hard for a mere $370 net, and that it would be much better to lead a pleasantly idle life for just that much less? And wouldn’t the same thing occur to all others whose earned incomes were only slightly above the guarantee?

It is not easy to say how far above the guarantee any man’s in­come would have to be for this consideration not to occur to him. But we would do well to remember the following figures: The median or “middle” income for all families in 1964 was $6,569. The median income for “unrelated” in­dividuals was $1,983. People with these incomes or less — i.e., half the population—would be near enough to the guarantee to won­der why they weren’t getting any of it.

Someone Must Pay

If “everybody should receive a guaranteed income as a matter of right” (and the italics are Mr. Theobald’s), who is to pay him that income? On this point the advocates of the guaranteed in­come are either beautifully vague or completely silent. The money, they tell us, will be paid by the “government” or by the “State.” “The State would acknowledge the duty to maintain the individual.”

[T]he gov­ernment has nothing to give to anybody that it doesn’t first take from someone else.

The state is a shadowy entity that apparently gets its money out of some fourth dimension. The truth is, of course, that the gov­ernment has nothing to give to anybody that it doesn’t first take from someone else. The whole guaranteed-income proposal is a perfect modern example of the shrewd observation of the French economist, Bastiat, more than a century ago: “The State is the great fiction by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else.”

“The State is the great fiction by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else.” Bastiat

Rights vs. Obligations

None of the guaranteed-income advocates explicitly recognizes that real “income” is not paper money that can be printed at will but goods and services, and that some­body has to produce these goods and services by hard work. The proposition of the guaranteed-in­come advocates, in plain words, is that the people who work must be taxed to support not only the peo­ple who can’t work but the people who won’t work. The workers are to be forced to give up part of the goods and services they have cre­ated and turn them over to the people who haven’t created them or flatly refuse to create them.

{T}he people who work must be taxed to support not only the peo­ple who can’t work but the people who won’t work.

Once this proposition is stated bluntly, the spuriousness in all the rhetoric about “the absolute con­stitutional ‘right’ to an income” becomes clear. A true legal or moral right of one man always im­plies an obligation on the part of others to do something or refrain from doing something to ensure that right. If a creditor has a right to a sum of money owed to him on a certain day, the debtor has an obligation to pay it. If I have a right to freedom of speech, to privacy, or to the ownership of a house, everyone else has an obligation to respect it. But when I claim a “right” to “an in­come sufficient to live in dignity,” whether I am willing to work for it or not, what I am really claim­ing is a right to part of somebody else’s earned income. What I am asserting is that he has a duty to earn more than he needs or wants to live on so that the surplus may be seized from him and turned over to me to live on.

[If] I claim a “right” to “an in­come sufficient to live in dignity,” … what I am really claim­ing is a right to part of somebody else’s earned income.

What the guaranteed-income advocates are really saying, be­hind all their high-sounding phrases and humanitarian rhet­oric, is something like this: “Look, we find ourselves with this wonder­ful apparatus of coercion, the gov­ernment and its police forces. Why not use it to force the workers to pay part of their earnings over to the nonworkers?”

Lack of Understanding

We can still believe in the sin­cerity and good intentions of these people, but only by assuming an appalling lack of understanding on their part of the most elementary economic principles. “This book,” writes Robert Theobald, “proposes the establishment of new princi­ples specifically designed to break the link between jobs and income.” But we cannot break the link be­tween jobs and income. True in­come is not money, but the goods and services that a money will buy. These goods and services have to be produced. They can only be produced by work, by jobs. We may, of course, break the link be­tween the job and the income of a particular person, say Paul, by giving him an income whether he consents to take a job or not. But we can do this only by seizing part of the income of some other per­son, say Peter, from his job. To believe we can break the link between jobs and income is to be­lieve we can break the link be­tween production and consump­tion. Goods have to be produced by somebody before they can be con­sumed by anybody.

Claimants to Be Trusted, Taxpayers to Be Examined

One reason for the agitation for an unconditionally guaranteed income is the dislike of some so­cial reformers for the “means test.” The means test is disliked on two grounds — that it is “humil­iating” or “degrading,” and that it is administratively troublesome — “a comprehensive examination of means and resources, applicant by applicant.” The guaranteed-income advocates think they can do away with all this by using the “simple” mechanism of having everybody fill out an income tax blank, whereupon the government would send a check to everybody for the amount that his income, so reported, fell below the govern­ment’s set “poverty-line” mini­mum.

The belief that this income-tax mechanism would be administra­tively simple is a delusion. Before the introduction of the withhold­ing mechanism, before the report­ing requirements for payments made to individuals in excess of $600 in any year, and the still more recent requirements for the reporting of even the smallest in­terest and dividend payments, the income tax was in large part a self-imposed tax. The government de­pended heavily on the taxpayer’s conscientiousness and honesty. To a substantial extent it still does.

The government can check the honesty of individual returns only by a random or arbitrary sam­pling process. It is altogether prob­able that more evasion and cheat­ing go on in the low income-tax returns than in the high ones—not because the big-income earn­ers are more honest, but simply because their chances of being ex­amined and caught are higher. The amount of concealment and falsification that would be prac­ticed by persons trying to get as high a guaranteed income as pos­sible would probably be enormous. To minimize the swindling, the government would have to resort to the same case-by-case and ap­plicant-by-applicant process as it does to administer current relief, unemployment insurance, and so­cial security programs.

Is a means test for relief necessarily any more humiliating than the ordeal that the taxpayer must go through when his income tax is being examined, and when every question he is asked and record he is required to provide implies that he is a potential crook? If the reply is that this inquisition is necessary to protect the govern­ment from fraud, then the same reply is valid as applied to appli­cants for relief or a guaranteed income. It would be a strange double standard to insist that those who were being forced to pay the guaranteed income to others should be subject to an in­vestigation from which those who applied for the guaranteed income would be exempt.

Is a means test for relief necessarily any more humiliating than the ordeal that the taxpayer must go through when his income tax is being examined, and when every question he is asked and record he is required to provide implies that he is a potential crook?

Finally, the income-tax mechan­ism would be irrelevant to the real problem with which the guaran­teed-income advocates profess to be concerned. For the applicants would presumably be reporting last year’s income, which would have no necessary relation to their present need. An applicant’s in­come in the previous year or other previous period might be either much higher or much lower than it is today. The process would not meet present emergencies, such as illness or temporary loss of em­ployment. The guaranteed-income payment might either come too late or prove unneeded or exces­sive.

Old Subsidies Never Die

One of the main selling argu­ments of the guaranteed-income advocates is that its net cost to the taxpayers would not be as great as might appear at first sight because it would be a substi­tute for the present “mosaic” or “rag bag” of measures designed to meet the same goal — social secur­ity, unemployment compensation, medicare, direct relief, free school lunches, stamp plans, farm subsi­dies, housing subsidies, rent sub­sidies, and all the rest.

Neither the record of the past nor a knowledge of political reali­ties supports such an expectation. One of the main selling arguments in the middle 1930′s, first for un­employment insurance and later for social security, was that these programs would take the place and eliminate the need for the various relief programs and pay­ments then in existence. But in the last thirty years these pro­grams have continued to grow year by year with only minor in­terruptions. The result is that public assistance payments (in­cluding old age assistance, aid to dependent children, general assist­ance, etc.) have risen from a total of $657 million in 1936 to $4,736 million in 1963, an increase of 620 per cent. And this cost is in addi­tion to the present $30 billion or more that the Federal government now spends annually on social security and other welfare pro­grams.

So not only may we expect that the guaranteed-income would be thrown on top of all existing wel­fare payments (we can expect a tremendous outcry against dis­continuing any of them), but that demands would arise for constant enlargement of the guaranteed amount. If the average payment were merely the difference be­tween an assumed “poverty-line” income of, say, $3,000 and what the family had earned itself, all heads of families earning less than $3,000 would either quit work or threaten to do so unless they were given the full $3,000, and so allowed to “keep” whatever they earned themselves. And once this demand was granted (in an effort to avoid the wholesale idle­ness and pauperization that would otherwise occur), the people whose earnings were just above the gov­ernment minimum, or less than twice as much, would point out how unjustly they were being treated. And the only “logical” and “fair” stopping place, it would be argued, would be to give every­body the full minimum of $3,000 no matter how much he was earn­ing or getting from other sources.

Anyone who thinks such a pre­diction farfetched need merely re­call how we got into the present system of paying everybody over 72 social security benefits regard­less of his current earnings from other sources, and paying benefits to every retired person over 65 re­gardless of the size of his un­earned income from other sources. By the same logic, the British government pays comprehensive unemployment, sickness, matern­ity, widowhood, funeral and other benefits, and retirement pensions, regardless of need or the size of the recipient’s income.

Incentives Undermined

We have seen how the guaran­teed-income plan, if adopted in the form that its advocates propose, would lead to wholesale idleness and pauperization among nearly all those earning less than the minimum guarantee, and among many earning just a little more. But it would also undermine the incentives of those much further up in the income scale. For they would not only be deprived of the benefits that they saw millions of others getting. It is they who would be expected to pay these benefits, through the imposition upon them of far more burden­some income taxes than they were already paying. If these taxes were steeply progressive in pro­portion to income, as is probable, they would discourage long hours and unusual effort.

It is difficult to make any pre­cise estimate of the effect of a given income-tax rate in discour­aging or reducing work and pro­duction. Different individuals will, of course, be differently affected. The activities of a man whose whole income comes in the form of a single salary from a single job will be differently affected than those of a surgeon, a doctor, a writer, an actor, an architect, or anyone whose income varies with the number of assignments he is willing to undertake or clients he is willing to serve.

What we do know is that the higher income-tax rates, contrary to popular belief, just don’t raise revenue. In the current 1966 fiscal year, individual income taxes are estimated to be raising $51.4 bil­lion (out of total revenues of $128 billion). Yet the tax rates in ex­cess of 50 per cent have been bringing in only about $250 mil­lion a year — less than 1 per cent of total income tax revenues and not enough to run even the present government for a full day. (In other words, if all the personal income-tax rates above 50 per cent were reduced to that level, the loss in revenue would be only about $250 million.) If these rates above 50 per cent were raised fur­ther, it is more probable that they would raise less revenue than more. Therefore, it is the income‑tax rates on the lower and middle incomes that would have to be raised most, for the simple reason that 75 per cent of the personal income of the country is earned by people with less than $15,000 gross incomes.

Poverty for All

It is certain that high income tax rates discourage and reduce the earning of income, and there­fore the total production of wealth, to some extent. Suppose, for illustration, we begin with the extreme proposal that we equalize everybody’s income by taxing away all income in excess of the average in order to pay it over to those with incomes below the average. (The guaranteed income proposal isn’t too far away from that!)

Let us say that the present per capita average yearly income is about $2,800. Then everybody who was getting less than that (and would get just that whether he worked or not) would, of course, as with the guaranteed-income proposal, not need to work produc­tively at all. And no one who was earning more than $2,800 would find it worth while to continue to earn the excess, because it would be seized from him in any case. More, it would soon occur to him that it wasn’t worth while earning even the $2,800, for it would be given to him in any case; and his income would be that whether he worked or not. So if everybody acted under an income equalization program merely in the way that seemed most rational in his own isolated interest, none of us would work and all of us would starve. We might each get $2,800 cash (if someone could be found to con­tinue to run the printing machines just for the fun of it), but there would be nothing to buy with it.

A less extreme equalization pro­gram would, of course, have less extreme results. If only 90 per cent of all incomes over $2,800 were seized and people could keep 10 cents of every “excess” dollar they earned, there would of course still be a little incentive to earn a little more. And if everyone could keep 25 cents out of every dollar he earned above the $2,800, the in­centive would be slightly higher.

But every tax or expropriation must reduce incentives to a cer­tain extent. The effect of the guar­anteed-income proposal would be practically to wipe out incentives for those earning (or even want­ing) no more than the guarantee, and greatly to reduce incentives for all those earning or capable of earning more than the guaran­tee. Therefore the guaranteed-income would reduce effort and earning and production. It would violently reduce the national income (measured in real terms). And it would reduce the standard of living for four-fifths of the population. The government might be able to pay out the specified amount of guaranteed dollar “in­come,” but the purchasing power of the dollars would appallingly shrink.

The Negative Income Tax

Recognizing the calamitous ero­sion of incentives that would be brought about by a straight guar­anteed income plan, other reform­ers have advocated what they call a “negative income tax.” This pro­posal was put forward by the prominent economist, Professor Milton Friedman of the Univer­sity of Chicago, in his book Capi­talism and Freedom, which ap­peared in 1962. The system he pro­posed would be administered along with the current income tax system.

Suppose that the poverty-line income were set at $3,000 per “consumer unit” (families or in­dividuals), and suppose that the negative income tax (which is really a subsidy), were a flat rate of 50 per cent. Then every “con­sumer unit” (this is the statisti­cians’ technical term) whose in­come fell below $3,000 would be paid a subsidy of, say, 50 per cent of the difference. If its earned in­come were $2,000, for example, it would receive $500; if its earned income were $1,000 it would re­ceive $1,000; if its earned income were zero it would receive $1,500.

Professor Friedman freely con­cedes that his proposal, “like any other measure to relieve poverty… reduces the incentives of those helped to help themselves.” But he argues that “it does not eliminate that incentive entirely, as a sys­tem of supplementing incomes up to some fixed minimum would. An extra dollar earned always means more money available for expend­iture.”

It is true that the “negative in­come tax” would not have quite the destructive effect on incentives that the guaranteed income would. Nevertheless, once the principle of the negative income tax were accepted, the demand would im­mediately arise that the minimum subsidy to be paid should be at least “adequate” to provide a min­imum income to support a family “in decency and dignity.” So we would be back to the minimum guaranteed income, plus supple­mental subsidies for those who al­ready had some earned or private income of their own. If this mini­mum were set at $3,130 for a married man with two children (to return to the Social Security Administration’s “poverty-line” figure), this subsidy would be re­duced, say, by 50 cents for every dollar earned, and therefore would not stop entirely until the family’s own earned income had reached $6,240.

Not Enough Rich to Soak

How many billions of dollars in subsidies this would involve, and what rate of income tax would be required on all families with in­comes above $6,240 to raise the revenue necessary to pay these subsidies, if any rate could, I leave to the professional statisti­cians to calculate.

But it is obvious that this pro­gram could not be paid for by “the rich.” If we were to subsi­dize all family incomes below $6,240 it would be hardly consis­tent to tax them. Yet net incomes below $6,000 (after exemptions and deductions) are now taxed at rates up to 22 per cent, beginning with 14 per cent even on the first $500 of net income. In fact, all personal net income of $6,000 or less is now the source of nearly 80 per cent of all personal income tax revenue. Yet, as I have al­ready pointed out, the Census Bureau calculates that the median income for all families in 1964 was only $6,569; and taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $15,000 or less receive three-quarters of the total personal income there is to be taxed.

Neither a “negative income tax” nor a guaranteed income plan of the dimensions being suggested could possibly be put into effect with dollars of present purchas­ing power.

It may be added that the nega­tive income tax would have all the administrative problems that would afflict the guaranteed in­come proposal — fraud, corruption, necessary applicant-by-applicant investigation, and irrelevance of payment to present need.

And once the main principle of either proposal were accepted, the minimum subsidy or guarantee de­manded would be bound constant­ly to increase. Anyone who doubts this need merely consult the his­tory of unemployment insurance and social security benefits since the plans were initiated in the 1930′s. It is significant that sev­eral of the advocates of the guar­anteed income acknowledge that their idea originated with the more modest negative income tax proposal of Milton Friedman. They just expanded it.

So knowing what we do of polit­ical pressures, and of the past history of relief, “social insur­ance,” and other “antipoverty” measures, we are forced to con­clude that once the principle of either the negative income tax or the guaranteed income were ac­cepted, it would be made an addi­tion to and not a substitute for the present conglomeration of re­lief and “antipoverty” programs. And even alone it would drastical­ly reduce the productive incentives of those earning less than the guaranteed amount and seriously reduce the incentives of those earning more, because of the op­pressive taxation it would neces­sarily involve. Its over-all effect would be to level real incomes down, not up.

Even at present our large and overlapping assortment of relief and antipoverty measures is seri­ously reducing incentives to the production that would otherwise be possible. Our social reformers have been everywhere overlooking the two-sided nature of the prob­lem of reducing poverty. The ob­stinate two-sided problem we face is this: How can we mitigate the penalties of misfortune and fail­ure without undermining the in­centives to effort and success?

The Poor Laws of England

Our social reformers — who sometimes talk as if no govern­ment ever did anything to relieve the plight of the jobless and the poor until the New Deal came along in 1933 — are constantly de­ploring the alleged indifference, callousness, or niggardliness of our forefathers in dealing with the poor. But wholly apart from pri­vate charity, previous generations in their governmental capacity were sharply aware of the prob­lem of poverty and made some effort to alleviate it almost as far back as the records go. There were “poor laws” in England even before the days of Queen Eliza­beth. A statute of 1536 provided for the collection of voluntary funds for the relief of those un­able to work. Eleven years later the City of London decided that these voluntary collections were insufficient, and imposed a com­pulsory tax to support the poor. In 1572 a compulsory tax for this purpose was imposed on a national scale.

But the problem soon proved a very serious one for the people of that age. The upper class was very small numerically and pro­portionately. The middle class it­self was always very close to what we would today call the poverty line. The workhouse and other conditions imposed on those on relief seem very cruel to us to­day. But our ancestors were in constant fear that if they in­creased relief or relaxed the stern conditions for it they would pau­perize increasing numbers of the population and create an insoluble problem.

At the beginning of the nine­teenth century, indeed, the cost of poor relief began to get out of hand. The total cost of the poor law administration increased four­fold in the thirty-two years be­tween 1785 and 1817, and reached a sixth of the total public expen­diture. One Buckinghamshire vil­lage reported in 1832 that its ex­penditure on poor relief was eight times what it had been in 1795, and more than the rental of the whole parish had been in that year.

In face of statistics of this kind, England’s Whig government decided to intervene. It appointed a royal commission, and in 1834 a new and more severe poor law was passed in accordance with the commission’s recommenda­tions.

The guiding principle of the new law was that poor relief should be granted to able-bodied poor and their dependents only in well-regulated workhouses under conditions inferior to those of the humblest laborers outside. This seemed harsh, but the com­missioners had argued that “every penny bestowed that tends to rend­er the condition of the pauper more eligible than that of the in­dependent laborer is a bounty on indolence and vice.”

If the pendulum swung too far in the direction of severity and niggardliness in the middle nine­teenth century, it may be swing­ing too far in the direction of lax­ity and prodigality today. As weeping subsidization of idleness, such as is proposed by the guar­anteed income, would only weaken or destroy all incentive to effort, not only on the part of those who were subsidized and supported, but on the part of those who would be forced to support them out of their own earnings. There could be no faster way to impoverish the nation.

The Cure Is Production

One of the worst features of all the plans for sharing the wealth and equalizing or guaran­teeing incomes is that they lose sight of the conditions and insti­tutions that are necessary to cre­ate wealth and income in the first place. They take for granted the existing size of the economic pie; and in their impatient effort to see that it is sliced more equally they overlook the forces that have not only created the pie in the first place but have been baking a larger one year by year. Eco­nomic progress and justice do not consist in beautifully equalized destitution, but in the constant creation of more and more goods and services, of more and more wealth and income to be shared.

The only real cure for poverty is production.

The way to maximize production is to maximize the incentives to production. And the way to do that, as the modern world has dis­covered, is through the system known as capitalism — the system of private property, free markets, and free enterprise. This system maximizes production because it allows a man freedom in the choice of his occupation, freedom in his choice of those for whom he works or who work for him, freedom in the choice of those with whom he associates and cooperates, and, above all, freedom to earn and to keep the fruits of his labor. In the capitalist system each of us, with whatever exceptions, tends in the long run to get what he creates or helps to create. When each of us recognizes that his reward de­pends on his own efforts and out­put, and tends to be proportionate to his output, then each has the maximum incentive to maximize his effort and output.

No Effective Poverty Programs for Underdeveloped Countries

Capitalism brought the Indus­trial Revolution, and the enormous increase in productivity which this has made possible. Capitalism has enormously raised the economic level of the masses. It has wiped out whole areas of poverty, and continues to wipe out more. The so-called “pockets of poverty” con­stantly get smaller and fewer.

The condition of poverty, more­over, is relative rather than ab­solute. What we call poverty in the United States would be re­garded as affluence in most parts of Africa, Asia, or Latin Amer­ica. If an income sufficient to en­able a man “to live with dignity” ought to be “guaranteed” as a matter of “absolute right,” why don’t the advocates of a guaran­teed income insist that this right be enforced first of all in the poor countries, such as India and China, where the need is most widespread and glaring? The rea­son is simply that even the better-off groups in these nations have not produced enough wealth and income to be expropriated and distributed to others.

What we call poverty in the United States would be re­garded as affluence in most parts of Africa, Asia, or Latin Amer­ica.

One of the guaranteed-income advocates, in a footnote, admits naively: “We must also recognize that we still have no strategy for the elimination of poverty in the underdeveloped countries.” Of course they haven’t. The “strat­egy” would be the introduction of free enterprise, and of incentives to work, to save, to accumulate capital, better tools, and equip­ment, and to produce.

But would-be income guarantors ignore or despise the capitalistic system that makes their dreams dreamable and gives their redis­tribute-the-income proposals what­ever plausibility they have. The capitalist system has made this country the most productive and richest in the world. It has con­tinued to achieve its miracles even in the last generation, and to increase them year by year. It has raised the average weekly factory wage from less than $17 in 1933 to $110 today. Even after the rise in prices is allowed for, it has more than doubled our real per capita disposable income — from $893 in 1933 to $2,200 in 1965.

Allowed to continue to operate with even the relative freedom that it has enjoyed in recent years, the capitalist system will continue to produce these miracles. It will continue to make progress against poverty by a general increase in income and wealth. But short­sighted and impatient efforts to wipe out poverty by severing the connection between effort and re­ward can only lead to the growth of a totalitarian state, and destroy the economic progress that this country has so dearly bought.

Posted October 27, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in economics

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