Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Monday, September 15, 2014
Individual Rights is the Solution to the Gay Marriage Conflict
Last year, a New Jersey court overturned that state’s ban on gay marriage. Subsequently, reports the Associated Press, courts in several more states—Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia—partially or fully overturned bans in those states. In reaction to this growing trend, religious conservative opponents of same-sex marriage are fighting back.
But there is a fundamental contradiction in their fight. Some of their strategies are rights-violating, while others seek to protect rights.
On the rights-violating side, some religious people are trying to re-ban gay marriage. An example of this tactic, advocated by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, takes the form of an amendment to the federal constitution defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
Contrarily, other religious people are trying to carve out a “religious exemption” from anti-discrimination laws, which would allow religious business owners not to serve gay couples. An Arizona law recently vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer is an example of this strategy. What worries religious conservatives are cases like New York’s Liberty Ridge banquet hall, which was sued for refusing to host a gay wedding ceremony, and Colorado's Masterpiece Bakeshop, which faced court-imposed fines for refusing to bake cakes for gay weddings.
Of course, religious conservatives are not the only ones guilty of contradictory stances. The same is true, in reverse, for many same-sex marriage supporters, as indicated in the Liberty Ridge and Masterpiece Bakeshop cases cited above.
But, contrary to what both sides seem to believe, the right of gay couples to marry and the right to religious freedom do not conflict. The solution to the conflict between supporters and opponents of gay marriage is to consistently uphold individual rights; specifically, the right to freedom of contract, a form of freedom of association. Religious conservatives do have a right not to contract with gay couples based on their convictions (however irrational or bigoted those convictions may be). But marriage, in a legal context, is strictly an issue of contract, and gays have a right to marry based on their freedom of contract.
Gay marriage does not violate religious business owners’ rights, and religious business owners’ refusal to contract with gay couples does not violate gay couples’ rights. If contract rights are upheld consistently, neither gay couples nor gay marriage opponents would have anything to worry about. They could simply go their separate ways, each leaving the other side free to contract according to their respective values.
Gay Marriage Rights vs. Anti-Discrimination Laws
Arizona Governor's "Religious Freedom" Veto Was the Right Move
Labels: Marriage Equality
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Corporate Tax Inversion is an Act of Economic Justice.
Burger King’s high-profile tax inversion has been red meat for statist predators and their supported. One letter-writing supporter had this to say in the 9/2/14 New Jersey Star-Ledger:
Businesses are taxed to cover their piece of the commons, aren’t they? The public pays for schools that educate their employees, roads one travels to reach them, and police, fire protection, and courts they need. Burger King benefits from all this [and] should not be allowed to avoid its share of taxation.
I left these comments:
“Burger King . . . should not be allowed to avoid its share of taxation.”
This is a hollow slogan.
To begin with, U.S. corporate income tax rates are by far the highest among the thirty-three industrialized nations comprising the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—39.1 % in the U.S. vs. the OECD average of 25%. Furthermore, U.S. taxes extend to profits earned outside the U.S. Taxes “dodged” through inversion pertain only to profits earned outside the U.S. Inverting companies still pay the full confiscatory rate on their American earnings. Even after inversion, these companies pay more taxes than they would anywhere else. They’re hardly “dodging” their “share.”
But it gets worse. Corporate taxes represent double taxation. Keep in mind that corporations are voluntary legal associations of individuals cooperatively working toward common productive goals. Corporations are not separate entities apart from their owners and employees. Contra LaRegina’s assertion, businesses don’t use schools, roads, police, fire protection, or courts. A legal entity, as such, doesn’t use anything. Only corporation owners and employees do—all of whom are taxpayers. Yet, owners are taxed once as a corporation and again as individual shareholders. How many other taxpayers would stand for the injustice of being taxed twice on the same earnings? Would Jim LaRegina?
Then there is the economics. Inverting companies have hundreds of $billions in foreign profits parked overseas. American tax collectors can not touch that money as long as it remains parked overseas. It is only subject to tax if and when it is “repatriated.” But to repatriate—bring that money back to the U.S. to invest—they must pay $billions in taxes before putting that money to work—this, on top of foreign taxes already paid on the money. So, instead of reinvesting in America, growing their businesses and creating valuable products and jobs, our tax code makes those investments uneconomical. Far from committing “economic treason”, as one imbecilic slogan puts it, these companies invert so they can reinvest their foreign profits in the U.S. If they intended to invest abroad, they wouldn’t need to invert. With all of the handwringing over our weak economy, you’d think encouraging reinvestment in America by lowering tax rates would be an obvious solution. But these political phonies are not interested in a stronger economy, just the tax money to make big government stronger. Those Leftists who are spearheading the drive to criminalize tax inversion are the real economic traitors.
At least on the level of taxes, American multi-national corporations are treated far worse than almost any other OECD country. Shame on our legislators for devising a tax code that makes it a matter of moral and economic sense for American companies to re-incorporate abroad. And shame on the Jim LaReginas of the nation for siding with the tax-lusting, power-hungry statists politicians against the productive companies that underpin our economy. Tax inverting companies are not villains. Their inversions are acts of economic justice.
“Citizens for Tax Justice” vs. Rational Patriotism
Labels: Government and Economics, Taxes
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Thursday, September 11, 2014
John Farmer’s Moral Inversion on “Tax Inversion”
Burger King is apparently pursuing a so-called “tax inversion” as part of its merger with Canadian company Tim Horton. (Tax inversion is when a company re-incorporates to a country for tax reasons by means of mergers and acquisitions.) The Left has been going apocalyptic the tax inversion trend.
The implications for ordinary Americans are not inconsiderable. “With every new corporate inversion,” Sen. Dick Durban, an Illinois Democrat, warned, “the tax burden increases on the rest of us to pay what these corporations don’t.”
In this globalized world with few or no real economic borders, we’d best gear up for more of the same. It’s all the rage among corporate tax lawyers these days.
In truth, much of the beef with Burger King is the product of misunderstanding. For one thing, many of these departing companies, including Burger King, are operated by an ownership that’s not altogether American or not American at all.
For another, their “loyalty,” if we can call it that, is legally owed not to the country but, as I’m told by my lawyer friends (I actually have some), to its stockholders.
I left these comments:
“[Corporate boards’] ‘loyalty,’ if we can call it that, is legally owed not to the country but, as I’m told by my lawyer friends . . . , to its stockholders.”
And that’s as it should be, because it’s also a moral responsibility owed to shareholders. Corporations are voluntary associations of individuals. America is founded on the principle that the individual is sovereign over his life and property, holding inalienable rights to pursue his happiness, with government as servant charged with the task of protecting the liberty to do so. It is not the collective—the “country”; i.e., the state—that is sovereign, to which the individual owes his loyalty. This is what makes America historically unique. It’s the true meaning of “American Exceptionalism.” In truth, those who abandon American principles are the real Benedict Arnolds.
Farmer’s inverted moral priorities are plainly evident. He condemns Burger King’s use of legal means to hold onto more of its own earnings as a “lust for money”. But, politicians’ seizing those earnings through the world’s highest corporate tax rates—and then extending those taxes to a corporation’s worldwide earnings—is, apparently, not “lust.” Durben, in turn, claims that because of corporate inversions, “the tax burden increases on the rest of us to pay what these corporations don’t.” Yet, Burger King and other inverters seek only to shield profits earned abroad from Washington tax collectors. Earnings inside America will still be fully subject to U.S. corporate income taxes, the highest in the world. In truth, American corporations have long carried more than their share of the tax load. Add to that the fact that the corporate income tax subjects shareholders to double taxation—with profits taxed at both the corporate and personal levels—and it’s clear that corporate inversion is an act of tax justice.
Loyalty to America does not equate to loyalty to American tax collectors. It means loyalty to the individualist principles America stands for. Inverting companies, by legally minimizing their taxes, are the true patriots. Anyone who claims he wouldn’t do the same—and doesn’t legally minimize his own taxes, to the extent he can—is either a fool or a hypocrite. Certainly not a patriot.
Shame on this unconscionable smear of Burger King. It is a moral inversion. It is American tax authorities that are betraying America, by creating tax policies that make it morally and economically rational for companies to leave our shores.
Toward Less-Unfair Corporate Taxes
Labels: Individualism vs. Collectivism, Taxes
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Anti-First Amendment Democracy for All Amendment Introduced in Senate
A mixed economy tilting toward ever more government control will eventually reach a tipping point at which it must begin making moves to wall off its political class from the people. An advancing dictatorship will have to attack freedom of speech sooner or later. Later has arrived.
Two years ago, President Obama called for a constitutional amendment to overturn two pro-free speech Supreme Court rulings, Citizens United, which lifted restrictions on corporate and union campaign-related spending, and McCutcheon, which lifted restrictions on aggregate campaign contributions by individuals.
I left this reply to Menendez's statement:
Once you cut through the doublespeak, it comes down to this: The purpose of this amendment is quite transparent and far-reaching; to effectively repeal the First Amendment. The First Amendment was crafted precisely to prevent government officials from having the power to decide who can say what, how often, in what manner, and when—i.e. to abridge speech in any way. The design to stop “radical special interests” from expressing their views is an attack on ideas of which the political class disapproves; a direct attack on intellectual freedom. The provision to distinguish between individuals and corporations is a direct attack on freedom of association: Corporations are nothing more than free associations of individuals. To infringe on association rights is to infringe on individual rights. Ironclad protection for freedom of the press? How does that jibe with silencing media corporations? Press and speech are two sides of the same coin; either both are free, or neither are free.
This amendment is a politician’s protection-from-the people’s dissent amendment. Once government gets the power to regulate speech, it will have the power to silence its own critics. The “reasonableness” requirement is the perfect example of non-objective, and thus arbitrary,law—which is government of men and not of laws. Then we will have a government of, for, and by the political class—a ruling class of unlimited power. Every American who values his liberty should make it his top priority to oppose this amendment. When our freedom of speech goes, so will go what’s left of all of our other individual rights. The First Amendment is first for a reason: Free speech is the only real bulwark against advancing tyranny. Let’s protect it. Stop this amendment.
Menendez’s statement is incorporated into a lengthier article in the New Jersey Star-Ledger. I’ll have more to say on Menendez’s article (not yet published online), as well as this amendment.
Are Media Corporations Next?
Labels: Constitution and Law, First Amendment
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Is Inheritance anti-Capitalist and anti-Merit?
In a letter titled Anti-Capitalist Bequests, published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Kerwin M. Lanz argues that inheritance is inherently anti-capitalist, and should be “eliminated.”
Lanz writes, in part:
America’s founders weren't fans of privilege by heredity. They advocated an aristocracy of merit driven by a system of rewards. Inheritance rewards without merit and undermines the incentive system that drives capitalism.
The counterargument is the idea of property rights, that a man may do what he chooses with his property, including giving it to his decedents. Is the property right as fundamental as our right to free speech or religion? A person’s assets becoming the property of the state is defendable beginning with eminent domain.
Consider the practical benefits in eliminating inheritance. Everyone will work to his potential, motivated by fear or enthusiasm. Our culture will benefit by rewarding the best and brightest of every generation through a fair start and equal opportunity. Economic activity would be stimulated since there would no longer be an incentive to hoard wealth, and perhaps there would be a more equitable distribution of assets.
Inheritance seems to be hurting our capitalist tradition.
I left these comments:
"Is the property right as fundamental as our right to free speech or religion?"
In fact, property rights are more fundamental than speech and religion, because your property is your only means of exercising, implementing, and enjoying your rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. If you think about it, without property rights, no other rights are practicable. For example, what good is your free speech, if the government owns all media companies—or religious freedom, if government owns all religious properties—which it eventually will if inheritance is abolished? Once you establish the principle that all property and assets not in the hands of the original producer reverts to government ownership, what other result would you expect? (Don't kid yourself that your property rights will be respected when you're alive, but only violated when you're dead. If you have no right to dispose of your property as you see fit when you die, you have no property rights at all.)
And to what end does the government seize your property? To dish it out to everyone else who didn't earn it? Why do others have a right to your property "without merit," but your chosen heirs do not? In what way does inheritance make "the chance of success unfair and the role of merit irrelevant?" How does your neighbor inheriting property inhibit your life? You want to tear other people down to increase your own "chance of success"? How is that "fair"? How is that succeeding on merit? And if the government doesn't dish it out, to what end does it keep your property? It would then come to own all business, "hoarded wealth" (investment capital and savings), industrial properties—i.e., the entire economy, including you, since you will be dependent on the government for your job, food, shelter, recreation, "opportunities"; everything. If you are totally dependent on government, you are not free. In fact, you are a slave.
A government that seizes all property is a totalitarian state—specifically, a communist state. Capitalism is the system of individual rights, in which all property is privately owned, and your rights, including your right to your property, are protected by government. Capitalism's so-called "aristocracy of merit," which in fact is not an aristocracy at all, is a consequential, not a primary, aspect of capitalism. Capitalism abolishes aristocracy of all kinds, and leaves each individual in control of his own life and property, by inalienable right. If there are no property rights, there is no capitalism. If there is no capitalism, there is no merit system. There is only an elite political aristocracy, under which people rise by political pull, rather than merit.
The Founders antipathy to inheritance (or "privilege by heredity") was antipathy to the inheritance of political title, position, and nobility, not inheritance of private property. In a capitalist country, there is no political inheritance. Neither "A person’s assets becoming the property of the state" nor eminent domain is morally or rationally defensible. Capitalism is the first social system to recognize that wealth is the product of individual effort coupled with voluntary trade, not a tribal "asset" to be "equitably distributed" by an omnipotent ruler.
How do we derive "a system of rewards" based on "merit" by denying everyone his rewards built up by a lifetime of work based on merit? Where does one derive "incentive" from a system without property rights? There may be a motive to work on some level, based on fear of the state. But there is no enthusiasm, as witness the rampant alcoholism and dreary dependence of the former Soviet communist system. It is the abolition of property inheritance, not inheritance as such, that is thoroughly anti-capitalist and anti-merit.
"Equality of Opportunity": What it Really Means
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal—Ayn Rand
Labels: Capitalism and Free Markets, Individualism vs. Collectivism, Property Rights
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Sunday, September 7, 2014
Incorporation is an Inalienable Individual Right. Public Funding is Not.
A New Jersey Star-Ledger correspondent left the following comment regarding the Hobby Lobby case. The Supreme Court ruled that forcing a corporation to provide abortifacient health insurance coverage against the owners’ religious convictions violated their right to religious freedom. The Star-Ledger noted in an editorial that many organizations that cheered the ruling receive government funding. The correspondent offered this "solution":
If these owners want to be treated like an individual, then treat them as such. Take away the 'Corporate' protections for legal issues so these owners can be sued individually. Take away any government provided Grant money or loans, since I don't want my Religious beliefs trampled on by this company doing things I don't agree with, and that tax money is my money too.
Very true: People have a right not to be forced to fund people or businesses that contradict their beliefs. But you also don’t have the right to support “government provided Grant money or loans” to people or businesses whose practices are consistent with your beliefs, but that may violate other people’s beliefs. So, the only just answer is to end all “government provided Grant money or loans.” What moral right do government officials have to seize money by force from some citizens (taxes)—thus violating their right to spend their money as they judge best—and hand it out to other citizens? You provided the answer yourself.
However, I find your suggestion to “take away” Hobby Lobby’s “corporate protections” to be morally horrendous and un-American.
People have an inalienable individual right to do business under terms that limit their personal liability as owners. This right is derived from the right to freedom of contract (which is a derivative of freedom of association). Incorporation is simply a streamlined legal process by which the government upholds and protects that right. If customers don’t want to contract with a business under those terms, they are free not to.
The government’s proper purpose and sole reason for being is to protect individual rights, which precede government. Incorporation is a right, not a privilege or gift from government. Incorporating doesn’t negate individual rights; nor relieve the government of the duty to treat corporation owners “like an individual.” As with rights to speech, property, and conscience, it is the duty of government to enforce the rights of all individuals at all times, however they contract with each other and regardless of their beliefs. If the government can simply rescind its protection of a right for anyone who does not follow its dictates, then we are not sovereign citizens with inalienable rights, but mere subjects who live at the pleasure of an omnipotent imperial power.
Labels: Individual Rights, Welfare State
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Friday, September 5, 2014
Did Unions Create the Middle Class?
In its Labor Day tribute, the New Jersey Star-Ledger plugged unions in its editorial As unions fade, middle class fades with them. In my comments posted below the article, I chose to focus on two points. The last three paragraphs read:
Politics is a factor [in the decline of union membership], however. Labor suffered a defeat in February, when Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga rejected the UAW even though VW voiced its approval of a union shop. The 53-47 defeat was influenced by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who figured it was time for government to interfere with the free market.
Corker said VW would bring a new SUV line to the plant only if workers rejected the union; VW flatly said it wasn’t true. But the rules were set by the Tennessee legislature, which said state incentives for plant expansion would be jeopardized if the UAW won its election.
Anyway, fire up the grill, Labor Day is here. But labor’s day is nearly over, if workers lose touch with their legacy. And if big labor dies, then the greatest invention of the 20th century – the middle class - dies with it.
“The 53-47 defeat was influenced by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who figured it was time for government to interfere with the free market.”
What free market? The Wagner act forces employers to deal with unions created by worker votes. If the vote went the other way, it would have violated the right of the company to decide for itself whether or not to deal with the union, and violated the rights of the minority of workers who voted against unionization by forcing them to join the union or lose their jobs. In a free market, willing workers are free to form unions, and employers are free to contract with them or not, based on what value the union has to offer the employer in exchange for meeting their requests. Free market unions operate like other traders, offering a value to the employer in exchange for added member benefits through voluntary agreements. Wagner unions are not free market unions. Whatever Corker did, he was not interfering in the free market.
“. . . if big labor dies, then the greatest invention of the 20th century – the middle class - dies with it.”
The idea that the middle class is a consequence of 20th Century unionism is ridiculous. The middle class arose in the 19th Century as a consequence of the rise of free market capitalism. Capitalism liberated the average man from the feudal caste system, enabling him to flourish according to his own ambition and ability. In turn, the businessman rose to prominence in the American economy. It was the businessman who invested in the labor-saving technologies that raised the value of labor, creating one new industry after another and, after centuries of stagnation, paving the way for a quadrupling of real wages from 1800 to 1900—this, even as the country absorbed millions upon millions of mostly poor immigrants. Rising wages follows productivity. Unions are not the cause.
I can attest to this connection in my own experience as a Union plumber [now retired]. I entered the plumbing trade in 1966, and the union a year later. Over the decades, my real wages rose smartly, but so did trade productivity due to advances in tools and materials provided by contractors. It is this productivity that made it possible for my union to negotiate for and win higher wages. General wages can not rise apart from productivity. Unions can help facilitate the rise in productivity by providing its members training in the new technologies, as construction trade unions do. But unions, as such, can’t raise real wages. Only productivity can, and the impetus behind productivity gains comes from business investment, not union formation.
Unions can be a positive force. To the extent that unions are free market structures, they play a positive role. To the extent unions are coercive, they are economically destructive and immoral, gaining their advantages by taking rather than trading.
Productivity, Not Labor unions, Created the Middle Class
Labels: History, Holidays, Labor Laws, Unions