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Liberty’s Virtues

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In a perfect world, none of this would matter.

In a perfect world, any of it would work – communism, socialism, feudalism, capitalism, fascism, monarchy, theocracy, oligarchy, utopianism, corporatism, unionism, democracy, and even anarchy.

But this is not a perfect world. And in this decidedly imperfect world, history teaches that one thing works much better than all the other things – liberty. Liberty, for those who have forgotten or never learned, is the absence of government in choice.

Truth is the endowment of a thousand untruths disproven in practice. Throughout history, people have tried just about every imaginable scheme of coexistence and discovered that the “three frees”  – free will, free enterprise, and free trade – provide the most happiness for the largest number of people over the longest time.

Family, faith, freedom, work, charity, patriotism, tolerance, property, community – the building blocks of a civil society we hold in highest esteem exist separate from  government. They have earned their way up onto the pedestal over millennia of experimentation with alternatives that did not work as well.

The new normal is neither new nor is it normal, and the traditional values we revere only became traditions because other values destroyed those who held them dear. Good new ideas are welcomed and adopted quickly in a free society; it is only the bad ideas that must be imposed by government.

People are flawed – that is the simple reason that individual liberty works better than collective coercion in any of its forms. The human experience is about trial, error, consequence, and learning. If one person does only the first two and someone else is made to suffer the third, neither of them will ever get to step four.

And that is our fundamental problem in this country – we have socialized consequences and stifled learning. We have become a nation of dullards and blamers and victims and smug sanctimonious jerks who would rather reduce our neighbor than improve ourselves. We are not humbled by our errors; they simply harden our bias and justify our prejudice. We gloat in victory, sucker punch in defeat. With each tragedy, we announce our ignorance and repeat our superstitions.

Liberty’s first virtue is its practicality. Liberty immunizes the general population from the tragic mistakes of its individual members. When two people exchange in bad faith, those two people alone suffer the consequences. Unless, of course, those two people just happen to be John Boehner and Barack Obama – then the innocent victims number in the hundreds of millions.

The idea itself is absurd; why should two men you have never met negotiate how much of your labor they will keep for their own purposes? What if they compromise on all of it? Would you celebrate the spirit of bipartisanship and breathe a sigh of relief that a crisis has been averted? Will you be happy that Washington is working again? Does gridlock still seem like such an awful thing?

For that matter, can you even describe the crisis they are trying to avert without using the word “cliff”?  It is a fiscal curb, crack in the driveway, a chalk line. They are niggling over the last half trillion as if the first $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities doesn’t matter. If Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner would decide to quit stalling and take all of the nation’s wealth, we would finally be equal. That should make many people happy, as equality – not freedom – is the progressive’s perverted idea of justice.

Equality of outcome has a price, and that price is everything.

The relevant question is not which of those two men will convince the Beltway paparazzi that the other guy blinked: it is how much government do we need? We can answer it in two minutes right here: Democrats, write down how much of your own income you would have given to George W.Bush if he could spend it any way he chose; Republicans, do the same with President Obama in mind.

What did you decide? 5%, maybe less? There you go – nearly everyone is already half-libertarian; now just keep both the left hand and right hand out of your wallet – and your school, your work, your bedroom, your gun rack, your church, your charity, your emails, and your stash – and you will complete the journey.

Alas, the current President does not seek consensus on such trivial matters, and he does not regard the Constitution – wisely written to protect us from guys like him – as particularly relevant to his ambitions. He is hell-bent on raising income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, and the Republicans appear to be ready to do what they do best – cave.

He will raise tax rates simply for the sake of raising them, for doing so will not reduce the deficit, heal the economy, or make poor people wealthy. In a perfect world, perhaps taxing success would do all those things; but in the real world, it will not even increase tax revenues, the guise under which the punisher-in-chief will punish achievement. The consequences of his economic ignorance will be grim; you can’t feed a child with a rate.

The Laffer Curve is not a theory; it is an observation – increase rates and revenues go down. California jacked up tax rates for millionaires this year and tax revenues dropped by $800 million. Britain raised taxes on millionaires to 52% recently and within a year there were 40% less millionaires in Britain. France taxed the rich and the rich moved to Belgium.

Single people may struggle to understand the difference between tax rates and tax revenues, but married people are already acquainted with the concept that just because you get all of something doesn’t mean you get more of it. Dinner dates, of course – what did you think I was thinking about?

Tax rates are neither the problem nor the solution when the deficit is commonsense. October tax revenues were up 13% over the prior year, and all of that new revenue came from corporations and the stinking, filthy, greedy, awful, exploiting rich. The President has only demanded a 10% increase in the top tax rate.

And yet the deficit in October grew to $120 billion. Why? Because government spending increased by 16.4%. Speaking of marriage…many a marriage has ended over lesser exhibitions of fiscal incontinence. Boehnerama will not cut spending, and everyone knows it.

Nancy Pelosi was finally right about one thing – this fiscal cliff soap opera is boring. No amount of increased government spending will ever be enough for those who believe government is the answer to every single problem in this imperfect world; and no amount of redistributive punishment will ever be enough for those who envy.

We just had a national referendum on envy in November and it won with 50.6% of the vote. To the victor go the spoils – taxes will increase, the debt will rise, the economy will falter, millions will lose their health insurance, and administration spokesmen will miss 48 more employment forecasts. It has already started.

Forward.

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