Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thus Spake Geothustra

When Geothustra was 18 years of age, he left his home in the valley of Zero-Master, and went up to the mountains, where he enjoyed a niche in solitude. But in the year 2001, on his 30th birthday, he felt the need for human company, and so he descended into a valley town which was holding its market day.

“I wish to buy apples,” declared Geothustra to a vendor, but was told, “there are none today. There has been a shortage for many months. But they would be cheap if there were any.”

A young man was leaning against a tree. “And what work do you do?” asked Geothustra.

“I am unemployed,” said the young man. “There are not enough jobs.”

“Have you not heard?” Geothustra shouted out. “The market is dead!”

“What? We have markets,” said a young maiden. “Do you not see vendors selling and folks buying?”

“May I set up a tent and also sell goods if I find an empty plot?” asked Geothustra.

“Only if you get a permit and pay rent and taxes,” replied the maiden.

“I bring you new values,” said Geothustra. “If you understand, you will be superior beings who cast off all permits and taxes.”

“We like our values just as they are,” said an old man.

“What is this foul stench I smell?” asked Geothustra. He went to the edge of the merchant shop zone, and there he saw a mountain of garbage, and toxic water flowing from it.

Geothustra called out to the town folk: “You are despisers of life! Your desecration of the earth is madness. Why do you do it?”

“Our leaders have promised to clean it up,” said the unemployed young man.

“And yet,” said Geothustra, “the stench remains. Your chiefs walk on crooked legs.”

A man in a purple uniform came up to Geothustra and said to him, “Be careful of what comes out of your mouth, just as you watch what comes into it.”

“Then I will let my body speak,” Geothustra replied, and he disrobed.

“You are in violation of the law!” shouted the policeman.

Geothustra replied, “I speak without words to those who despise the body. For they disrespect what is human, so very human.”

“Come with me,” said the policeman,

Replied Geothustra. “I bring new values, and force cannot confine them.”

“Why are you such a trouble maker?” asked the policeman.

“A noble man always stands in the way of tyrants,” said Geothustra.

“Say what you will,” said the policeman. “I represent the state, which represents the will of the people.”

“What you represent,” said Geothustra, “is the will to power. The state prohibits theft, yet it is the biggest thief. The state is a cold monster. Its first lie is that it is the will of the people.”

“This is sedition. I’m going to arrest you,” said the policeman.

Geothustra put his arms forward to let the policeman shackle him. “You can take me to prison, but your crown is made of mud.”

“Let him go!” said the maiden. “He wears no garb because we are his friends.”

“If you were a god, what would you wear?” Geothustra asked the policeman.

“But I am not a god,” he answered.

“Yet you play a god,” said Geothustra. “Are you a tyrant? If the agents of the state are tyrants, they cannot be friends of the people.”

“Unshackle him, please!” cried the maiden. “I want to hear what are the new values.”

“I shall unshackle him if he puts his garb back on,” said the policeman.

“You have it backwards,” said Geothustra. “First I will be free. Then I shall of my own free will put on the garb, since my body has had its say.”

After he dressed, the town folk crowded around him. “The new values!” they cried, “What are the new values you bring us?”

Said Geothustra: “Let people become themselves. Be skilled with arrows. And share the earth.”

“Share the earth?” asked a vendor. “Are you against private property?”

“Possess what you will,” said Geothustra, “but share equally in the benefit of the earth.”

“We like our values just as they are,” said the old man again.

“He’s a communist,” said the unemployed man.

“The old values despoil the earth and despise the human. The old values have no goal,” said Geothustra. “But your will to power rejects new values. Enjoy your stench.”

Geothustra turned and began to walk back to the mountain.

“Will you return?” asked the maiden.

Geothustra stopped and turned towards the maiden. “I shall return, when I can celebrate with you.”

“This was an experiment,” said Geothustra as he walked away, “and experiments never fail. Do not remain my student. Go beyond me, and find a yet greater truth.”

Thus spake Geothustra.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

No Tax Favors for Government Employees

There should be no tax favors for the employees of governments. Tax breaks for “public service” amounts to a tax-free increase in their wages, which does not show up in the government’s budget. It is not just sneaky and unfair; it implements a political bias for government and against private enterprise.

In his “State of the Union” address, President Obama advocated debt forgiveness for students who obtain loans and then spend ten years as government employees. This is an expansion of debt cancellation programs that already exist. The College Cost Reduction Act, implemented in 2009, but enacted under President Bush, provides that loans backed by federal guarantees are forgiven after 10 years of public service in government as well as in nonprofit organizations. That program does not include private loans.

If the citizens wish to raise the wages of government employees, they should just do this by raising their money wage, rather than doing this implicitly with tax-free debt cancellations. But many government employees are already overpaid, as they not only get equal or better money wages than those in private enterprise, they often get early retirement and pensions almost the size of their salaries. Many states such as California have chronic large budget deficits because of the high cost of government employees.

What is superior about government work that entitles employees of the state special favors? Are they better people? Is government service intrinsically better than private-sector service? The term “public service” implies that government workers serve the public whereas those in private industry serve just themselves.

The confusion here is the term “public,” which means either people in a community or else government. The public sector is the governmental part of the economy. But “open to the public” means open to people in general. So, does “public service’ mean service to the public, or does it mean governmental service? It is a “weasel word,” as economist Friedrich Hayek put it, that uses one meaning to imply another.

“Tax breaks for governmental employees” does not sound as good as “debt forgiveness for public service.” But people who work in private industry also serve the public. Adam Smith explained that in making bread to earn a living, the baker serves the public by providing it with bread. A teacher in a private school serves the public just as much as a teacher in a governmental school. Why should the governmental teacher get his loan erased while the private school teacher with no higher wage have to keep paying the interest and pay off the principal?

Governmental workers do not have halos on their heads. They are not gods who merit special privileges. The United States of America is a republic, and our Constitution prohibits granting privileges to nobility. Government service should not be a royal aristocracy. It is bad enough that government imposes restrictions and taxes; those workers doing that should also have extra privileges?

The law should abolish existing debt forgiveness for those in government or nonprofit organizations, and treat every worker equally. The wage should honestly be put just into their money salary, for all to see, and any debt forgiveness should not discriminate by a category of employer.

Equal rights for all, privileges for none! That should be our motto. President Obama, tear down that royalist wall!